Following the news that Natasha’s Law will be introduced in 2021, allergens is making the headlines again! (Under "Natasha's law", food businesses will have to include full ingredients labelling on pre-packaged food)
It has been reported that the African Village Restaurant in Birmingham has been banned from serving any foods to people who state they have a food allergy, following the hospitalisation of a diner. The ban is the first of its kind in the city after Birmingham City Council obtained the emergency prohibition order against the African Village.
This case highlights the importance of implementing adequate policies and repercussions of what can go wrong.
In press reports it is highlighted that the customer, who has an allergy to foods that contain either peanuts or fish ingredients, requested an allergen-free meal and was assured by the restaurant that this could be provided. However, on eating the meal, the diner suffered a severe anaphylactic reaction leading to hospitalisation.
Environmental health officers inspected the restaurant and found a “lack of knowledge in relation to allergens in food”, it was also judged that there were many areas where food could be cross-contaminated by these products.
Mark Croxford, head of environmental health at Birmingham City Council, said: “As there is an imminent risk to the health for people who have allergies, for the first time in Birmingham, environmental health officers successfully applied to the magistrates’ court for an emergency order."
“This prevents the business from serving food to anyone who states they have an allergy. As the business does not pose a risk to everyone it has not been formally closed and can trade as usual for everyone else.”The order remains in place until such a time that the restaurant can demonstrate that it is able to provide allergen-free meals.
CSC’s advice and top tips for effective allergen management:
Implementation of effective allergen procedures, awareness and training at site will assist with ensuring that your premises complies with food safety law. 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.
Robust allergen procedures must be put in place which cover the following areas:
1) Clear, well presented menus to be provided. Information must be reviewed and necessary allergen information detailed.
2) Allergen signage provided - Signage clear, visible and relevant.
3) Allergen matrix/information available and provided - covers all products (to include breakfast, lunch, dinner, sides, desserts, cakes and special offers). 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 made aware of these.
4) Allergen training for chefs/kitchen and food service staff to be undertaken and recorded. This should include FSA online allergen course and internal training.
5) The Front of House/food service team must be aware of the procedure when a customer asks about allergens. Even the most well thought out policies can be flawed if clear lines of communication in relation to allergen management are not followed. It is imperative that the front of house team communicate effectively with the kitchen team to ensure that food orders are processed correctly to avoid any confusion. Having a standard operating procedure in this instance can prevent unfortunate scenarios.
6) What is the procedure if there is a change in supplier? Any changes to the menu or any changes of ingredients must be updated in the allergen information and all staff made aware.
7) What is the policy for allergenic ingredients inside the kitchen to avoid cross contamination? - 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. Think about cleaning of work surfaces and separate equipment!
8) Complaints and investigating procedures: A clear procedure needs to be in place for handling and investigation of complaints which involve allergens. All key staff need to be aware of this procedure.
Whilst much focus is placed on the 14 allergens that must be declared by law, it is important to remember that there are many other ingredients that your guests could have an intolerance to, eg. Chilli. It is therefore critical that the same due diligence is applied in this instance
For further advice, training or assistance, do not hesitate to contact CSC.
Click here to access our Elearning course on Allergen awareness
Restaurant banned from serving food to customers with allergies