Posted on: March 23, 2015 | Posted in: Latest News
The new law states that food businesses can choose to provide allergen information verbally rather than provide documented information; I recently conducted a quick poll across 4 social media groups (multiple allergies and coeliac) to get feedback to see if the food allergy community felt they could trust a venue to just give verbal information.
The post was left up for two hours and here is a snap shot view of the responses, with comments to help the caterer understand what the customer wants to see.
139 number of responses
100 No confidence in eating in a venue without written documentation
18 depends if they had confidence after discussing the cross contact procedures
10 comments rather than answers yes/no
The consensus was that many would have a conversation on arrival or prior to booking to understand how much knowledge the venue had on cross contamination and their menus. Once the initial trust was established with the venue the preference was to have clear written documents stating what they can eat.
Why is this?
When a server goes through the menu they are time limited and could go through a long list of options quite quickly it can be difficult for the customer to keep up or remember what has been listed. One person commented it was because they have a hearing disability and this causes additional issues.
If the venue is busy the allergy expert with the knowledge maybe to rushed to give accurate information.
It was also noted that some customers did not like it when their orders were not physically written down or logged on a hand held unit, there was always the concern that the server’s memory would not note their order correctly.
To read some of the varying comments click on the tab at the foot of this posting
Audit check your data
If you do create written documentation, ensure you have a second person to audit and sanity check the information. Our travels around the country have shown that even large chains employing agencies are still getting it wrong. This example shows celeriac listed as ingredient but not highlighted as allergen. there were other errors which took a while to get rectified.
Some matrix’s only list the 14 allergens as stated by the law but be aware that if you list full ingredients on a specification sheet this will help the multiple allergen customer, and they will love you forever. Also if the chart can state what food item(s) can be omitted to make the meal safe (within 14 allergens) this was felt to be more helpful click here to download our FREE matrix which is already formatted for you.
Make sure your chart is compliant could you spot the errors on the chart below, one column for tree nuts, peanuts and sesame. We also noted the cereals listed here as gluten free, actually contained barley malt extract and are not classed as gluten free
We believe a combination of both verbal and written communication to provide allergen information is the best formula as one will back up the other and in cases where venues are rushed off their feet, the written document will give added assurance to the customer to show they have taken time to check their dishes thoroughly.
As a matter of course make sure your staff have taken the FSA online training as a basic tool its great click here for links under FSA tab
It was apparent when we visited The Belfry in Nottingham, that the staff were knowledgeable and they had an extensive menu which was labelled gluten free with a back up folder containing additional information for the remaining 14 allergens, I was impressed my the vast range of starters and main courses, although the menu had to be adapted for my lactose and gluten intolerance, the options were explained by the waiter who was very willing to help, I was even able to have a dessert Panacotta made from soya milk- so it was a first to be able to have a 3 course meal.
We can help you develop your allergy documentation, call us on 07732637292 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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