To operate a successful catering business, it is essential that food allergen management is intrinsically linked to the Food Safety Management System and HACCP documents. It must become part of the day to day operations and form part of the culture:
“It’s what we do around here”
The minute this becomes something extra, an additional task is when it will be forgotten, and the mantra becomes “it’s not important”.
We know however, due to recent tragic cases that it is vitally important to understand how allergen management processes and procedures will ensure that customers with allergens can eat safely and with confidence in your establishment.
Training for all staff will provide them with the knowledge and confidence to understand the logic behind allergen management. A good starting point is to ensure that all staff complete the online FSA training. This training will provide the basic knowledge for new staff during their induction.
I would suggest that supervisors, team leaders, chefs and managers undertake a formal training course such as Highfield Training HABC Level 3 Allergen training. This will further develop their understanding about the practical implementation of allergen procedures.
Online training options are now available –please get in touch
Allergen Awareness Workshops
The advantage of a group training session is that this will create discussion points and provide further information for the attendees that they would not have learnt via an online course. A practical allergen awareness workshop or presentation will also ensure that catering staff have the opportunity to ask questions and encourages discussions about how to manage allergens in the workplace.
This will of course be available when Covid restrictions allow.
Independent Allergen Audits
In order to reduce cross-contamination it is necessary to walk around the kitchen and assess the current risks. This can be done in-house or an independent auditor can be used to undertake a full allergen audit with the risks and recommendations outlined.
The review of the kitchen processes must begin with the supplier and delivery of products. The supplier must provide full disclosure of allergens present in the product. The chefs must check the products and ensure their recipe specifications are updated and matches the allergen matrix. The Allergen Matrix can be downloaded from the FSA website and will highlight all the allergens present in each dish. Technology has also provided the opportunity to use apps, online recipe management systems and other system. The staff members must have access to the information in a format they can understand.
Storage areas must be organised in such a way that any allergen foods-peanuts, almonds, sesame seeds etc must be placed in a sealed container with purple allergen labels to clearly identify the allergen contained in that container. Allergen labels should also be used in freezers and fridges on any cooked foods stored in these areas. This will ensure all staff using those products are aware of the ingredients contain within.
Once they have the confidence to eat with you, they will become a regular customer and they will tell their friends and talk about their experience on social media. It is important to take this subject seriously and get it right!
Any areas which may present a risk to the allergen management process should be included in the HACCP paperwork, to highlight and address any issues which may affect the end product. This will ensure due diligence.
Communication between the chefs and the front of house team must be part of the culture so the chefs can confirm the ingredients in the dishes and can advise front of house staff. Communication between the customer and the catering staff must be honest and accurate to any customers who ask about allergen content. They need to be in a position to make an informed decision about their menu choice based on the information provided by the caterer.
It is worth noting that customers with allergens are increasing – they are an important customer as they bring their friends and family to eat in your establishment. Once they have the confidence to eat with you, they will become a regular customer and they will tell their friends and talk about their experience on social media. It is important to take this subject seriously and get it right!