How to cater for allergies and intolerances
Dietary restrictions due to allergies and food intolerances are becoming more and more common and, according to researchers, allergy rates will continue to increase.
Lactose intolerance, for example, was a rare condition a few decades ago, but nowadays approximately 20% of the UK population is lactose intolerant. Coeliac disease and gluten intolerance are less common,around 1% of the world population. However, more and more consumers are choosing to avoid lactose and gluten for dietary reasons, which is why we can find more and more allergen-free products on the market and restaurants are changing their menus to include dishes for everyone.
Allergens and the law
For people who suffer from a food allergy or intolerance, eating out can be very difficult European legislation states that all food businesses, such as restaurants and catering establishments, must indicate and warn about the presence in their menu of the 14 most common allergenic ingredients and to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. If a customer suffers from an allergic reaction, the responsibility falls on the establishment, which might be held liable and face prosecution and fines. In spite of this,there are many restaurants and hospitality establishments that do not fully follow the rules on labelling, and customers with a food intolerance still have to ask if a dish or menu is suitable for their diet.
How to deal with allergenic ingredients
Learn how to cater for this growingclientele and set yourself apart from the competition:
- Allergen-free ingredients from certified suppliers: Choose a certified supplier with a wide range of allergen-free products,especially those that are not part of the ingredient (such as cold meats with milk). More and more companies are offering a wider range of products, and Quescrem is one of them. All the products on our portfolio are gluten-freeand we have a large selection of lactose-free products for afuss-free menu for coeliacs and lactose intolerants.
- Allergen-free menu: Study your menu and make a technical sheet of those dishes that can be easier to adapt and design an alternative. That way you will be able to react quickly when needed.A technical sheet of the alternative dish will be especially useful for group menus, such as Christmas or family meals, and you’ll be able to fire the alternative in no time.
- Detailed information: If you still don’t have it, prepare a document with detailed information on all the dishes made in your kitchen, including the ingredients of every one of them and their allergens. Make a sign to let your customers know they can ask forit.
- Training: Make sure you stay informed of any changes to the allergen list and train your employees so they can properly informy our customers of the allergenic ingredients that can be found in each dish.
- Dedicated equipment and areas: When you are offering a menu or dishes for people with food intolerances you have to be make sure all areas, utensils and equipment are thoroughly cleaned to avoidcrossed-contamination.
In the kitchen
Some basic considerations have to be taken into account in the kitchen. When preparing group menus, for example, the secret is to prepare all allergen-free dishes before the rest, while the kitchen is clean.Other considerations are:
- If the ingredient is to be fried in a deep-fryer, always use newoil. If not possible, choose a different method.
- Read the ingredient label in case it contains allergens that havebeen missed form the technical sheet.
- Use dedicated or very clean surfaces, pans, aprons and kitchenwareand pay attention to personal hygiene.
- When buying supplies, include products to avoid cross-contamination,such as bags for toasting or baking bread. They will make your daily tasks easier.
- Once prepared cover all allergen-free dishes and identify them to avoid confusions.
- Make sure your basic cleaning process removes all traces of allergens and train someone for this task.
By making sure that allergens are correctly dealt with in your establishment, you will achieve better food security and legal protection, but you will also be answering the needs of a section of the population that, instead of feeling neglected, will thank your consideration and will be able to enjoy their meal with worrying.