Posted on: June 15, 2015 | Posted in: Latest News
The University of Winchester is awarded Gold Standard, ‘Certificate of Achievement’ for their Food Allergy Awareness program
The University of Winchester has always adopted a proactive approach when providing for their students, staff and visitors. This has won them several awards over the years especially in relation to their sustainability policies. When the NEW food allergy labelling regulations were about to come into force, David Morton, Catering Manager at the University decided to be a trail blazer and set the standard for other Universities to follow. The aim was to provide an inclusive policy for students with special dietary requirements to ensure they felt safe in their environment and guaranteeing they always have a choice.
In conjunction with the Food Allergy Training Consultancy the University has adapted its menus, reviewed and trained all food handlers to CIEH, Level 2 Food Allergy Aware certification standard. Because of this the Food Allergy Training Consultancy has awarded the University of Winchester a Gold Standard ‘Certificate of Achievement’ By investing in their staff and resources the University ensures they can provide not only a safe meal, but a positive dining experience for the food allergy, food intolerant and coeliac customer.
The University actively promotes their allergen policy at student open days, events and on their website including a dedicated email address to contact the catering team with any requests and concerns they may have. For the last two years the University has also supported the Anaphylaxis Campaign on their Orange Wig Day to actively highlight the issues of severe allergic reactions.
David Morton Catering Manager at the University stated
“The University of Winchester catering team have always taken its role in food service seriously; whether it is ensuring that we only use ethical, meat in our recipes, support local suppliers and producers in sustainable practices or providing a diverse choice for those from different cultural and religious backgrounds.
At the outset we wrongly believed, like most caterers that we had a good knowledge and understanding of the main allergens. However, it became clear that we had just touched the surface; literally. When we learnt about potential cross contamination through deep fat fryers, clothing and incorrect storage methods, not to mention obscure allergens such as sulphur dioxide or lupin, we knew it was crucially important to get it right every time.
We now treat our allergen based food very differently, in fact much like we treat raw meat and cooked meat; completely separately. Thereby, ensuring that when they finally come together for a dish we can accurately state the ingredients for our “free from” customers
The training that Caroline Benjamin and her team provided has been invaluable to us. It ensures that we now not only better understand the needs of customers, but by developing new allergen ideas and recipes we can ensure that Free From food is an option and not just an afterthought”
“This is a great achievement by the University and shows their commitment to inclusivity to all their students and customers no matter what their dietary requirements”
The journey started in April 2014, 9 months prior to the new regulations being in place the University in conjunction with the Food Allergy Training Consultancy (FATC) ran workshops with their staff , giving them the opportunity to participate in the creation of the policy, enabling them to take ownership and understand their responsibilities when serving the food allergy, intolerant or coeliac customer. Work groups were set up for each outlet, to develop procedures relevant to their own areas. Caroline Benjamin, Consultant for the Food Allergy Training Consultancy undertook a thorough review of the menus in each outlet, looking at how adaptations could be made to eliminate allergens where appropriate or seeking out alternative products to ensure a choice is always available.
It was important that we did not detract from the taste when making changes to a menu item, for example celery is one of the 14 major allergens and affects 1% of the population, it is however used as a base in many sauces, so decisions were made if an ingredient was crucial then rigorous procedures would be in place, to cover labelling, storage and preparation procedures to reduce cross contamination risks.
Practices were reviewed within all kitchens and serving areas, and an exclusive area for gluten free preparation was made available in the main kitchen. Staff now have a greater understanding of cross contamination and in those areas where it is difficult to have a restricted allergen area processes are in place to ensure that safe preparation can take place when preparing an allergen free menu item.
Gill Sanger, Training & Quality Controller with her Management team accepting the Gold Standard ‘Certificate of Achievement’
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