After several months of thinking, talking, planning and sleepless nights, this is now a reality. JACS is fully operational and open for business.
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.
Working as a Senior Allergen Advisor with Allergen Accreditation.
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 staff to consider …I have found the change of pace 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.
Students who suffer from food allergies are at their most vulnerable when they
start university. As they leave home to go university, it’s a very dangerous time for food allergy sufferers, and caterers should be especially vigilant.
Leaving home for the first time is life-changing for any young person but for those
suffering from food allergies it can be a very especially difficult time because they are
having to manage their allergies for themselves. Prior to this, their parents probably
cooked for them and did the food shopping, checking labels to ensure things are
free from specific allergens.
Peer pressure also has an influence as some allergy sufferers don’t want to feel
different and may not take life-saving medication out with them.
I know the full extent of the stress and anxiety that food allergies can have on
students, as my daughter Sophie is severely allergic to gluten, lactose, potatoes and
I’ve led a TUCO pilot to create a bespoke Code of Practice for managing food allergens on the Manchester Metropolitan University campus. The pilot was
launched in July last year and the pilot group is due to feedback its thoughts this
month. The main scheme will be launched this July.
In the meantime, universities should try to gain Allergen Accreditation. At MMU, we were one of the first university’s in the country to successfully achieve the
Getting the whole team on board is vital. I challenged my team to each
give up one of the 14 food allergens for a month so that they could experience first
hand what people with food allergies and intolerances have to face. I ended up with
24 volunteers and we raised over £1,000 for Allergy UK in the process, but it was a
really interesting exercise.
There are so many misconceptions surrounding food allergies. For example, some
people think it’s a fad or that cooking will kill the allergen, but it’s actually a life-
threatening condition and we need to deal with it in a serious way.