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Is your food business ready for Christmas and New Year?

PlatesThe holiday season is a busy time for restaurants and other food providers, with many people enjoying celebratory meals with family, friends and work colleagues. With the EU FIC legislation in place since last December – which states your business must be able to provide information about allergens present in the food you provide – it is essential you can cope with your customers’ requests, both for legal reasons and for your customers’ safety.

Eating out safely

People with food allergies are aware of the risks of eating food prepared by others, so are responsible for communicating their needs to food providers, including:

  • Finding out if certain dishes contain the allergens they need to avoid
  • Enquiring about the cooking method and if cross-contamination could be a problem
  • Informing chefs and serving staff of the severity of their potential allergic reactions
  • Preferably contacting the caterer/chef ahead of time to discuss their needs

This will help them assess their own risk and make their decision as to whether to eat at a particular establishment or not.

How can your business support customers?

With adequate communication and preparation it is quite possible to produce a safe meal to suit a customer’s dietary needs. As a business it is important you clearly indicate where customers can receive information on food allergens. This can either be upfront (e.g. menu or chalkboard) or signposted as to where it can be obtained (e.g. website or via asking a staff member).

Dining Out

Chefs can help by:

  • Keeping a record of the ingredients they use in their dishes
  • Using the same recipes each time
  • Ensure food containers are labelled and up to date
  • Be aware of steps where cross-contamination could occur and reducing the chances of these instances when preparing an allergen-free meal
  • Only providing a meal if sure it can be prepared safely

Serving staff should be able to:

  • Listen carefully to the customer so it is fully understood which allergen(s) needs to be avoided, how important cross-contamination is, and the level of their reaction
  • Know where to access accurate information on food allergens, e.g. a certain member of staff or particular information pack
  • Understand that any food can potentially be an allergen, in addition to the 14 major allergens we’re more familiar with, so as not to dismiss any customer requests

ALL staff need to:

  • Be receptive to those enquiring about allergens and provide adequate assistance
  • Be aware of the dangers of cross-contamination, for instance from utensils, work surfaces, and cooking oils used for multiple foods
  • Know what to do in case of an emergency – if a customer is suffering an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis it is vital an ambulance is called immediately giving the location of the business, and that those trained in First Aid are on hand while waiting for their arrival

With a bit of extra care and communication everyone can enjoy a festive meal this Christmas, and businesses can be confident they are keeping customers happy and ensuring their establishments are in line with legislation.

If you’re not yet up to date with the EU FIC allergen legislation, or require training for some or all of your staff, Food Freedom can provide a bespoke training package to suit your needs. We take the hard work out of providing free-from food so you can look forward to a busy Christmas season with great service that will last into the New Year.

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