At Kitchen CUT we speak to many chefs, owners and managers in the catering and hospitality industry every week and are often appalled at the slapdash approach that so many take to managing allergens.
Here, John Wood discusses the importance of allergen tracking using allergen software and why businesses need to take action, now!
With more and more cases of allergen related fatalities in the press, it’s not surprising that consumer confidence is dwindling. Recent research from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) cited that nearly two-thirds (64%) of people aged 16 to 24 who suffer from food allergies have avoided eating out in the past six months. These results are attributed to allergen sufferers’ lack of faith in restaurant menus, and in many cases this lack of faith is entirely warranted.
Many businesses, even large International businesses, rely on a chef physically going into the storerooms at each establishment, reading the back of packs and then ticking an Excel allergen sheet manually. Time and time again, we see the same products presented on one menu yet with different allergens for each listing! This is terrifying and unacceptable.
Since the introduction of the allergen law in 2014 (offically, the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation) the FSA have very clear descriptions and explanations on their website: http://allergytraining.food.gov.uk/english/rules-and-legislation/#know-the-law
Yet, despite this legistlation, I have personally seen so many small, medium and large UK and International companies that have no strict process to trace the allergens from the ingredient right the way through all their bulk recipes to their final dishes.
I have heard comments such as
“My chef deals with that”
“Yes I think we are ok with allergens”
I was even told by one chef in a large group of over 30 sites
“it is only a small amount of gluten”
Using allergen software to manage allergens in an accurate, simple and effective way
At Kitchen CUT we operate in over 55 countries, many of which are not covered by the EU legislation. Yet the lack of legislation doesn’t mean the risk or danger is any less. Allergies are not just restricted to Europe and allergen sufferers need to be cared and catered for globally.
Having worked in the industry for over 37 years, I fully appreciate that the pressure allergen management imposes on operations is difficult and time consuming, particularly with staffing pressures and increasingly tough trading conditions. Many companies appoint individuals at each site to be Allergen Ambassadors and to be responsible for the knowledge of allergens at site level. However, if those individuals are absent from the business it leaves the company exposed.
That’s the reason why having a system, accessible by everyone in the company, gives the transparency you need, and the confidence that everyone is dealing with the same, correct information.
Kitchen CUT provides accurate allergen software by allowing suppliers to updload your product price and allergen data through our Supplier Gateway. This is free for suppliers to use and gives you complete control and visibility over the products and allergen data being supplied to you. Once approved by you, these ingredients are then available in your system to use – your chefs can be as creative as they like in the confidence that allergens are traced all the way from an ingredient level through to every sub recipe, dish and menu you create. Everything is tracked accurately and automatically updated for you.
While the software works in a very accurate way, it is important for your business to have clear processes that you ensure your teams follow. Here are some of the scenarios you should give thought to:
If a supplier sends a substitute product with your delivery. What is the process for checking the new allergens and ensuring it’s updated?
If a supplier delists a product and you pick an alternative ensure that this is updated across every recipe
Managing the switch of entire suppliers
The above scenarios can easily be managed and controlled in Kitchen CUT with instant updates to ensure the information is accurate. It needs an operational process in place to make sure the correct workflow happens to mitigate any risk.
Having the controls in place back of house is as important as how these are communicated to customers. Kitchen CUT’s allergen software also allows you to create easy to view allergen tables and embeddable menus in your website so that customers can browse and filter to see which dishes they can eat based on their preferences/allergies. Giving customers this information to view in advance of visiting gives them comfort that you are dilligent in your management of allergens. Knowing you use allergen software to manage this also builds confidence that the information is live and upto date and not an out-dated print out from a few weeks ago.
Regardless of how big your company is, it is imperative to start taking allergens seriously. Now is the time to stop relying on individuals as this process is prone to human error, and to start employing a process and system that tracks allergens direct from your suppliers and vendors all the way through to your menus.
I am passionate about supporting this industry – while I don’t want the creativity of chefs to be restricted due to huge amounts of administration, this needs to be rigorously managed and by using allergen software such as Kitchen CUT, they can be creative – safe in the knowledge that any dishes have a transparent allergen profile. The recent tragedies are terrifying. I wish the industry would wake up and take this issue far more seriously.
If you need help please feel free to contact us at Kitchen CUT and lets us advise you on how to get allergen control of your business.
You can get more information about Kitchen CUT or a free online demo by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling +44 (0) 330 113 0050
You can register for a free trial here.