Food Allergens Continue to Cause Alarm

What’s the hospitality industry doing to address food allergens? Find out what you need to do to protect customers.

As our knowledge and learning around food allergens increases, it’s important to consider what we need to do as hospitality providers. Following recent research on food allergens, highlighted on the BBC’s Watchdog programme aired on the 28th November, major high street restaurant and coffee shop brands are undoubtedly failing to provide clear and accurate information to customers with food allergies.

Food Allergens

On the 13th December 2014, new EU law was introduced addressing food labelling and catering in relation to food allergies and allergenic ingredients. It applies to all meals served in bakeries, cafes, restaurants, care homes and packaged produce sold by supermarkets. It is apparent, however, that there is continuing ineffective implementation of the rules and legislation.

BBC investigation

BBC Watchdog Live reporters demonstrated this after posing as customers with a food allergy. They filmed staff in Frankie & Benny’s, Pizza Hut, Nandos, Pizza Express, Starbucks and Costa. At each location, they asked for advice on the ingredients of dishes they knew contained one of the most common 14 food allergens. Only Pizza Express consistently provided accurate advice in each of the five branches visited.

In the UK, approximately ten people die every year from food-induced anaphylaxis. In severe cases, just the tiniest trace of a food allergen can result in fatal or near-fatal symptoms.

Government commitments

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, after speaking to allergy groups and food businesses in November reinforced his commitment to change the law around allergen labelling.

In addition, Environment Secretary and Food Minister David Rutley met allergy groups, specialists and industry stakeholders soon after this. The purpose was to discuss the issues surrounding introducing revised allergen labelling laws. Attendees included Allergy UK, the British Retail Consortium, the British Sandwich and Food to Go Association as well as academics and clinicians.

Who’s at risk?

Teenagers and young adults appear to be at particular risk of severe allergic reactions. This has been evident in the tragic deaths of a number of young people, reported in the press. Most recently was the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, the teenager who died after suffering an allergic reaction to a Pret baguette.

If food allergens are not listed on menus, packaging or leaflets, customers will continue to rely primarily on conversations with those working in businesses serving and/or selling food. In this case, it is essential that members of the team are fully trained.

Training your team

As business owners who can help protect customers and build confidence in your team by investing in e-learning. Our range of online courses allows businesses to choose the training most relevant to their learning and development goals.

To help address the issues around food allergens, CPL Learning provide an Allergen Awareness e-learning course specifically designed to educate all staff producing, handling or serving food and beverages to the public.

The course provides:

  • An overview of legal responsibilities
  • The knowledge to explain what allergens and food intolerance are
  • Training on how to list any such ingredients in each dish you serve
  • Answers to any allergenic ingredients questions your customers might ask

For further information on CPL Learning e-learning courses and digital engagement tools or to request a demo, Contact Us.


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