The background behind the campaign was that Senior Allergen Advisor and Business Owner of JACS had previously led her team to remove one of the key 14 allergens from their diet in order to “Step in My Shoes” What is it really like to live day to day with any type of allergy? How difficult is it to eat out, shops, cook? The Free From community supported our campaign and took to Twitter and Instagram to share our campaign.
Recent incidents in the press have highlighted the difficulties of eating out with a severe food allergy. Participants of our campaign reported a lack of understanding within the industry. Many customers who plan to eat out in a restaurant will ring in advance quizzing the person who answers to phone. The response to these questions asked will affect whether the customer will book a table in that establishment or not.
Customer “I am ringing to find out if you can cater for my allergies”
Restaurant “Oh yes, of course, we do all the allergies ???!!”
Customer “Thanks I’ll leave it this time”
There must be a quicker more reliable way to check whether restaurants are on the ball when dealing with their Allergy customers … well of course there is Allergen Accreditation.
This robust audit scheme will ensure that the food business has willingly undertaken an in-depth audit of their business from the suppliers at the back door through to the food served on the plate.
The framework provides the caterer with the opportunity to work through the audit scheme and question their own suppliers, recipes, training and communication process. This will highlight any areas that need improving and once accredited the business can celebrate in the knowledge the customers with food allergies will be treated properly and the food will be safe to eat.
The scheme needs to be publicised widely in order that the customers who would benefit, start to demand that food businesses can provide proof of their ability to cater for them. The Free From customer will feel safe and the restaurant will benefit from repeat business.
The auditors who carry out the process are Senior Allergen Advisors and are very knowledgeable and skilled in this area. They will scrutinise the standardised recipes and ask the teams questions to check their understanding of the process. Suppliers need to provide full disclosure of all allergens and we recommend breaking down the gluten into each specific identity eg rye, wheat, barley need to be identified individually. The methods of communication are also highlighted and the team recommend pre-service briefs from the chef direct to front of house staff.
Once accredited the Senior Allergen Advisor will present the certificate to the team. This is valid for 3 years and should be proudly displayed to provide confidence to your customers that dietary requirements will be catered for.
It has been recognised that university students with food allergies are a vulnerable group. Living away from home, often for the first time everything will be unfamiliar to them. Settling into new accommodation with new friends is difficult enough but suffering with a potentially life-threatening food allergy is a challenge. Peer pressure, not wanting to feel different, Mum’s not cooking and shopping for the student anymore and trying new food and drink are all adding to the problem.
Luckily catering departments at Universities are very aware of the problems and are providing safe food for their students.
The University of Wolverhampton catering team led by the commercial service manager Amanda Shipley and her managers David Robinson and Stuart Rutty have recognised that their students with allergies deserve a consistently good food offer which is safe for them to eat. They had an in-depth rigorous audit to check their Allergen Management policies and procedures and were successful in achieving Allergen Accreditation status which is valid for 3 years.
David Robinson, the catering manager led his team through the audit making changes to his allergen management procedures as required. David was very keen that the team understood the need to ensure that the procedures were understood and the reasons behind them.
I was invited to return to Wolverhampton for the first of three Allergen Awareness Workshops. I present these in a relaxed group of team members with a mix of presentation, video clips and interactive activities. The group found it very interesting and learnt new facts .
I asked the group when we had finished to write down 3 things they had learnt from the session and 3 things they were going to do differently.
I was really pleased with the responses as clearly the groups had found the information interesting and they were going to put into practice some of the advice I had given.
What’s in the pots?
When the 1st day of workshops had finished I was delighted to receive great feedback from David:
“Really great day today, scary knowing that the actions we take can potentially cause loss of life; all food handlers must do this course. Jacqui is really good at putting across this point”
Other members of the group had told me that they were now going to take some of the lesser known allergens seriously as they hadn’t realised that they could also result in Anaphylaxis.
Food allergies, as we know, are on the increase and schools are reporting more complex multi -allergen-free diets in children.
If you have read this blog and are interested in the workshops or you want more information on the Allergen Accreditation scheme then please visit my website for more information . The workshops can be tailored for any audience .
I am passionate about raising awareness of allergies and have now set up my own business JACSto support caterers to understand the importance of good allergen management systems. Allergen Accreditation provides a robust framework which ensures the catering teams fully understand the importance of allergens within a catering environment. The Allergen Accreditation certificate will reassure those customers with particular dietary needs that they will be looked after and can eat safely.
The reason behind my passion to support customers with allergies is because my own daughter has struggled over the last 4 years with allergic reactions. She has written her own blogpost, which provides an honest insight into how she feels when she is suffering with a reaction. She has bravely provided a number of photos which highlight the physical reactions that she has to cope with on a regular basis.
The document on this page outlines our suggestions for how we would like you to participate in this challenge, following your registration for this important campaign. If you are active on social media, such as Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, please post your experiences whilst participating and make sure to include ‘#OneMcpeakeChallenge’ in your post to ensure that a member of the Allergen Accreditation team sees it. You can also email a member of the team, (the email address can be found in the document below).
We would like to once again thank you for showing your support with this campaign and urge you to encourage others you know to take on the challenge, even if just for the experience.
Please contact us for further details on the Industry led Allergen Accreditation scheme which we will provide full support throughout the process.
So how did I get here? After 9 years working as Head of Catering at Manchester Metropolitan University and the last 3 years working on improving Allergen Management at Manchester Met and more recently across the HE sector I am now on a mission to support food businesses to ensure that their Allergen Management processes and procedures are fit for purpose.
I am in a position to support procedures and to provide a framework to ensure due diligence and compliance within the business. Once the business is ready I will then audit the premises and award an Allergen Accreditation certificate with access to all the latest updates and information. This opportunity has opened a whole new world.
I have attended Hotelympia as an exhibitor which was a new experience – I have previously been to many exhibitions as a visitor. We were very busy with lots of interest and positive enquiries. If you came to our stand you will have received an email and we are now following up these enquiries. We were delighted with the response and encouraged to see that many suppliers are also looking for accreditation which will help Food Business Operators to prove full allergen disclosure in their recipes and on their menus.
I have been to many trade shows as a visitor, had my badge scanned and picked up leaflets and information along the way. It is different when you are the exhibitor- trying to get your message across amongst the biggest trade show is quite the challenge. We had many very interesting discussions including a hotel chain from London who declared that they were really pleased we were there and needed support and advice. Julian Edwards was a speaker on The Futures Stage and I was the assistant handing out information!! I believe the talk went down well – all the seats were full and the attendees were very interested in the topic.
After such a long time working in a very busy role with deadlines, meetings and a team of managers and staffto consider …I have found the change ofpace and expectations quite different. Here I am sitting in my home office (spare bedroom!) with the radio on and pinging out emails to anyone who may be interested! I have visited colleagues in Universities to offer advice, provide information on the Allergen Accreditation scheme and I have been to London to present to the regional HCA meeting.
I am finding it very rewarding but also an anxious time – I received my P45 earlier this week from my previous employer …that was a very strange moment. It shouldn’t have come as any surprise as this was my decision to leave and start a new business -however when the envelope came I felt quite odd, a little emotional and thought well here we go …no way out now …this is it !!
So with renewed energy and optimism I am looking forward to meeting new colleagues, helping food business’ to become Allergy Aware and ultimately helping those customers with food allergens have a safer and much better experience when they dine out.
April looks to be a promising month with meetings in my diary and another trip to London where I will be attending the Free From Awards evening where I have been shortlisted for a Free From Heroes Award.