On 13 December 2014, the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (FIC) came into force. From that date, products that contained ingredients ranging from fish and crustaceans to nuts or milk, would have to be declared to the consumer. Food labelling had to be made accurate and allergen-friendly dishes understood. Research shows that many in the industry are still struggling to achieve compliance with the legislation. Non- compliance is not an option. Operators need to ensure that not only is their establishment working within the bounds of the law, but that their suppliers are too.
Knowing your suppliers
“December 2014 will be remembered by most caterers as a time of adaptation – and by some, as the dawning of a new era of increased administrative burdens,” observes Mike Edmunds, Co-founder and Managing Director of Trade Interchange, a leading supplier management software provider. “Not only do caterers have to comply with the new regulations in their own business, but they are also required to oversee their suppliers’ actions – meaning a raft of information needs to be collected, organised, continuously updated and communicated.”
So how well have caterers risen to the challenge? Have they got to grips with managing this potentially dangerous issue within their supply chain? Independent research conducted recently on behalf of Trade Interchange suggests not.
“68% of foodservice operators say they still feel exposed to non-compliance with the legislation,” says Edmunds. “A main problem for many is that, while controlling their own internal procedures to ensure allergen control is manageable, ensuring best practice in the supply chain presents a different challenge entirely.
“With a growing number of suppliers to oversee, some professional caterers claim the amount of information to be monitored is increasing in scope and complexity. And, with surveys needed to establish supplier allergen control plans, cleaning programmes and protocols, the range of allergenic products they produce and allergen-training records for employees, the volume of data to be examined and analysed can feel overwhelming.”
Non-compliance leaves operators open to reputation damage, fines and, in extreme cases, criminal charges.
Technology is here to help
The research identified that the stumbling block for many appears to be in the procedures operators use for recording and updating information.
“Only 27% of operators hold supplier information readily available on specialist software, while some 60% use an outdated paper or spreadsheet-based method, which can be a concern,” continues Edmunds. “Over-reliance on paper-based systems, which are not up to date and are extremely difficult to manage, means businesses could be putting their consumers’ health in danger. Non-compliance leaves operators open to reputation damage, fines and, in extreme cases, criminal charges.
“There is no excuse for not complying or keeping on top of suppliers’ allergen accreditation and product information. All the tools are available.”
Edmunds urges professional caterers to look to specialist software to provide what they need. He explains: “Central data monitoring solutions, such as Supplier Information Management software (SIM), are specifically designed to improve the way supplier- related risks are managed, as well as cutting down on man hours.
“Suppliers complete tailored, comprehensive questionnaires, to collect what caterers and their customers need to know. By ensuring transparency into suppliers’ allergen processes, catering professionals are able to identify any suppliers that don’t have watertight systems in place.”
By ensuring transparency into suppliers’ allergen processes, catering professionals are able to identify any suppliers that don’t have watertight systems in place.
Know Your Allergens
There are 14 major allergens that need to be declared when they are used as ingredients in a food. Any service provider should be able to provide information on which foods contain these allergenic ingredients. If a member of staff is unsure of the answer to a customer’s question, they must ask somebody who knows. This information must be accurate and verifiable.
- Cereals containing gluten namely wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan wheat), barley, rye and oats - these can be found in some types of baking powder, couscous, meat products, pasta, pastry, sauces, soups and fried foods that are dusted with flour
- Crustaceans such as crabs, lobster, prawns and scampi - watch out for shrimp paste that is often used in Thai and south-east Asian curries or salads
- Eggs found in cakes, some meat products, mayonnaise, sauces, pastries and foods brushed or glazed with egg
- Fish found in some fish sauces, pizzas, relishes, salad dressings, stock cubes and Worcestershire sauce
- Peanuts found in items such as biscuits, cakes, curries, desserts, sauces and groundnut oil
- Soya a staple ingredient in oriental food, soya is often found in bean curd, edamame beans, miso paste, textured soya protein, tofu, desserts, meat products, sauces and vegetarian products
- Milk watch out for milk in powdered soups and sauces
- Nuts not to be mistaken with peanuts (which are actually a legume and grow underground), this ingredient refers to nuts that grow on trees such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio, Macadamia and cashew
- Celery this includes celery stalks, leaves, seeds and the root called celeriac. You can find celery in celery salt, salads, some meat products, soups and stock cubes
- Mustard found in breads, curries, marinades, meat products, salad dressings, sauces and soups
- Sesame often found in bread, houmous, tahini and always in sesame oil
- Sulphur dioxide or sulphites often used in dried fruit such as raisins, dried apricots and prunes. Can also be found in meat products, soft drinks, vegetables, wine and beer. People with asthma have a higher risk of developing a reaction to sulphur dioxide
- Lupin found in some types of bread, pastries and pasta
- Molluscs including mussels, land snails, squid and whelks, but can also be commonly found in oyster sauce and as an ingredient in fish stews
Further information and resources including chef cards, can be found on the Food Standard Agency’s website www.food.gov.uk/business-industry/allergy-guide
The British Hospitality Association’s website also contains useful information www.bha.org.uk/allergen-toolkit
Again, technology is here to help operators comply with the FIC regulations. EC caught up with Tarryn Gorre, Co-founder of Kafoodle (www.kafoodle.com) for some top tips on how to become, and remain, allergen compliant.
- The first thing is to train all your staff (be they full time, part time or temporary) to understand the importance of allergen compliance and the serious implications that come with not following the guidelines.
- Make sure all your menus or labels clearly identify that ‘allergen data is available’ and to ask a member of staff for further information.
- Your staff also need to be trained to ask customers if they have any allergies. Staff must be familiar with dishes that may contain any of the 14 allergens listed in the FIC regulations.
- The FSA has allergen prompt posters in a variety of languages that can be downloaded if staff members have English as their second language.
- Keep allergen datasheets – this is a menu matrix that logs the allergens in a dish. You can keep it on your computer or print off hard copy templates to be filled in. Ensure these are kept up to date, especially when you change the menu or a dish, and ensure that every staff member has access to it. Using a system such as Kafoodle will automatically update all your recipes and datasheets.
- If you have to make temporary ingredient substitutions, make sure they are logged on your allergen datasheet.
- Good kitchen hygiene practice is essential. Thoroughly clean all utensils to prevent cross contamination of allergens, log cross-contamination areas in the kitchen and update your datasheets accordingly, label all food and wash hands before and after handling allergens.
- Good and constant communication with your suppliers is key so you know exactly what is going into your dishes.
- Don’t forget that sauces and condiments may also contain allergens, such as fish in Worcestershire sauce.
- If you can, try and move away from endless pieces of paper and spreadsheets by using a menu management software system
As part of Bestway and Batleys continued commitment to its foodservice customers, the Allergen Analyser web tool on the Bestway Batleys Foodservice site helps caterers to determine which allergens are contained in their recipe ingredients. With the increased demand on caterers to highlight allergens and tighter legislation on food safety, the onus is on you to know exactly which allergens are contained in each dish.
For further information, visit www.bbfoodservice.co.uk/allergens
What is coeliac disease?
- Coeliac disease is a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by a reaction to gluten
- 1 in 100 people have the condition
- Symptoms include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, sudden or unexpected weight loss (but not in all cases), hair loss and anaemia
- Once diagnosed, it is treated by following a gluten-free diet for life. If a person with coeliac disease eats gluten (usually unwittingly through cross contamination in a kitchen), symptoms can vary from violent sickness and diarrhoea to days of feeling so unwell that the sufferer is unable to work
- It affects one in 100 people. However only 24% who have the condition have been diagnosed, which means there are currently nearly half a million people who have coeliac disease but don’t yet know.
For further information visit www.coeliac.org.uk
Lactose-free on the increase
“Almondy’s annual free-from report shows that three quarters of people have bought a gluten-free product in the last 12 months and over a third have bought lactose-free,” says Andrew Ely, Managing Director, Almondy. “The demand is substantial and it will continue into 2017.
“Not catering for a special dietary request can have a serious impact on an operation’s bottom line. While the gluten-free market continues to be buoyant, we’re predicting lactose-free to grow in demand in the year ahead, particularly as lactose is the most common cause of dairy intolerances and recent research revealed that 72% of people would like to see more lactose-free options on menus when eating out. Operators who take free-from seriously in 2017 will be rewarded.”
Costing just £5.99 and available via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, The Allergy Catering Manual (ASIN: B01D3UME3E) is the ideal primer for any caterer who is serious about tapping in to the ever-increasing and discerning ‘free-from’ market.
The ebook includes sections on:
- what food allergies and intolerances are
- preventing cross-contamination
- law and liabilities
- allergy risk areas in the kitchen
- alternative ‘free-from’ ingredients and products.
Anything and everything about freefrom (including recipes, food directories and product reviews): www.freefrommatters.com
Food Allergy Awareness Training for the foodservice industry: www.FATC.co.uk