David Loewi, MD of D&D London and Chairman of The Restaurant Association on the upcoming Allergen Regulations Q&As
Generally, have you found that food businesses are properly informed and geared up for the change in allergen legislation coming into force in December? Please explain.
There is very little awareness however The Restaurant Association members are well informed and starting to have processes in place to be ready for December. Food Allergens are a big issue for customers too, but I certainly don’t think that customers in general are aware of this new legislation.
What is The Restaurant Association doing in this regard?
Together with the British Hospitality Association we have created a Guidance Toolkit designed to assist members in understanding and implementing the new Allergen Regulations. It’s available free to all members and includes a toolkit, training notes, template materials and a community online Q&A Forum.
It has also been hosting a series of Regional Roadshows to help businesses get fully up to speed on the legislation and understand what’s required of staff. Already over 400 members have attended these sessions.
And what future plans does the Association have to help food businesses ensure they comply with the regulations?
It’s really about ongoing training and development. One of the next steps will be for businesses to understand how local authorities will enforce these new regulations.
One of the key roles for the RA is helping decode a regulation into practical, useful support for members who can just pick up the phone to the team with any questions they have.
In terms of practicalities, what do caterers need to be doing now in order to be ready in time for December? What would your top five pieces of advice be?
Each restaurant will want to implement training, tracking, recording and communications strategies that work for your individual business.
Here are some tips:
• To comply with the new Regulations you will need to identify when any of the 14 food allergens are contained the food you serve.
• Ask for accurate information from your suppliers. Your smaller suppliers (the farm-to-table or local providers) may not be aware of these obligations. Write to them directly to remind them of their allergen labelling obligations
• Make sure all records are easily accessible and visible so that everyone knows how to find out what ingredients are in each recipe.
• Review your storage and take steps to minimise cross contamination of ingredients
• Train your staff and make sure that you record the fact that you have delivered training sessions for each employee.
Catering businesses are complex entities. What are the key challenges caterers can expect to encounter when trying to prepare for the new legislation?
One of the key challenges will be to make sure that all your suppliers, such as your butcher, local bakery or farm to table provider, are aware of the legislation and helping you by giving you detailed labels and records of the ingredients they supply.
Make sure you record everything carefully so that you can comply with your obligations and in the unfortunate event your compliance is questioned you will have a paper trail of evidence if something goes wrong a bit further down the line.
What needs to be considered in terms of communication and training?
Full time and part time staff, new and experienced all need to be aware of this legislation. Don’t leave it to one person to manage. And don’t just train once, train often and keep reminders around the kitchen in places your staff will see them. Staff will need to communicate about things they wouldn’t ordinarily discuss such as brands supplied in a delivery or slight changes in a recipe.
Keep this on your pre shift meeting agendas so that every time you introduce new dishes you talk in detail about the recipes and any allergens.
For further information see www.bha.org.uk