Allergens, allergens, allergens. This is really a key focus in food safety law and rightly so with an increasing number of deaths over the past year resulting from poor food allergen procedures and information. Poor understanding and practices in this area has led to a number of large fines and even prison sentencing for business owners.
There is currently over 2 million people in the UK who suffer with food allergens (not including food intolerances). A larger percentage of these are children and young adults and with more food allergens being identified over recent years the importance of good practices and procedures is essential in a food business.
There is currently an ongoing inquest in Manchester for an 18 year old girl who sadly died from poor allergen procedures after eating a chicken burger at Almost Famous restaurant in Manchester city centre.
Shahida Shahid was out with friends in Manchester to celebrate the end of her first university term and visited the Almost Famous restaurant in Manchester. After looking at the menu she asked the waiter about possible food options and what she could have with her food allergen and in addition when ordering again informed the restaurant of her allergens to dairy, eggs, nuts and shellfish. The restaurant advised her that their chicken sandwich with no coleslaw or sauce was suitable which was then ordered my Miss Shahid.
Approximately 1 hour later when still out with friends Shahida started to have an allergic reaction. Shahida had her Epi Pen with her which her friend administered and an ambulance was called and she was transferred to hospital where unfortunately Shahida suffered a cardiac arrest which led to severe brain damage due to lack of oxygen. She died 3 days later.
The court have been told this was due to the chicken burger being marinated in buttermilk and her allergic reaction was because of her dairy allergen.
This follows many other recent prosecutions including food business operators being jailed for poor practices within businesses and really highlights the importance of stringent allergen checks, policies, procedures and training of staff in all food operations.
Allergen protocols are fully embedded in our food safety law and it is extremely important that allergens are managed well within all food businesses at every stage in the process. All allergen reactions and fatalities can be avoided with good practices at site and it is fundamental that these are adopted to avoid innocent people suffering.
People deserve food they can trust and a well managed, trusted and caring operation is not only good for the consumer but also for the business.
Below are important allergen procedures which should be adopted:
- Awareness- All staff should be aware of the importance of allergen awareness. Members of the kitchen team and front of house must be trained and knowledgeable of the allergen content of food and trained in allergens. This must include agency or contracted workers.
- Clear, well presented, up to date allergen information of foods sold/served in the food establishment must be readily available for members of the public and staff aware of these. Menus and/or display boards can be used for this purpose.
- Any changes of the menu or any changes of ingredients are updated in the allergen information and all staff aware.
- Segregation - Ensure that all allergen products are kept in sealed plastic containers to avoid any cross contamination of products and ensure all allergens ingredients are kept separate.
For further advice, training or assistance, do not hesitate to contact CSC.
We are also pleased to announce that we now offer Allergen Awareness training via our e-Learning portal: http://www.cs-compliance.co.uk/e-learning/