Correct allergen practice is an absolute essential for any establishment that serves food or drink. In fact, legislation was introduced in 2014 that now requires any premises where food or drink are served to provide detailed information for all products.
There are fourteen identified allergens that kitchens need to be wary of. They are as follows:
Celery (inc. Celeriac)
Cereals containing Gluten
Sulphur Dioxide (Sulphites)
Molluscs (inc. Mussels and Oysters)
Tree Nuts (inc. Almonds, Hazelnuts, Walnuts, Brazil Nuts, Cashews, Pecans, Pistachios and Macadamias)
14 Allergens Guide for Staff A3 Poster We actually stock a handy poster that lists all fourteen of the recognised allergens along with a small description. It's perfect for pinning up back of house.
Developing an Allergen Strategy
There are a number of ways to ensure that your establishment is adhering to the law and following an effective allergen strategy. Training and communication are very important, as is avoiding cross-contamination and preparing correctly. Purple is now universally recognised in the kitchen colour coding routine as allergen related, so it can be very helpful to use this for your signage, utensils and labels.
Below, we've created four categories that should help you to develop a plan for a safe and allergen-ready establishment.
When developing an allergen strategy, it's a good idea to make sure that all staff:
Can accurately provide information on allergens
Know the risks of and how to prevent cross contamination when handling or preparing
Are able to guarantee that allergen free meals are served to the right customers
Follow correct hygiene procedures at all times, especially after being in contact with allergen foods
Have at least one member who can deal with allergic reactions
The government run Food Standards Agency have a helpful and free-to-access allergen training course on their website.
Accredited allergen training is also available from JACS Ltd. Founded by respected allergen advisor Jacqui McPeake, they specialise in catering-specific allergen practices.
Signage & Display
Clear and correct communication is absolutely essential for an effective allergen strategy.
To begin with, make sure you have clearly visible allergen request signs. These let customers know that they are in an establishment that can handle their requirements. It will also allow you to plan and prepare accordingly after an initial allergen request.
It is crucial for you to have a disclaimer on all menus that asks customers to inform you of any allergen or dietary requirements.
If your establishment allows customers to serves themselves - for example a buffet, work canteen or hotel bar - it can be very handy to use easily identifiable signs that highlight dishes containing allergens.
For this we stock a range of tent cards, with one available for each individual allergen group. Additionally, we stock a generic tent card that has multiple tick boxes for foods containing several allergens.
Our purple tipped allergen skewers can also be an effective way to implement allergen procedures. After a dish is made, it allows front of house staff to easily identify which dish has been prepared under allergen procedures, and it will give customers peace of mind knowing that their request has been dealt with.
Creating a separate area for preparation of allergen-free dishes is a simple and effectual method for ensuring safety and preventing cross-contamination.
Clear, visible signage establishing the area of the kitchen for allergen-related preparation will be very useful.
Purple Allergen Food Preparation Area Sticker
Allergen Utensils Sticker
Preparation & Utensils
Next up will be making sure you have separate utensils for allergen preparation. Remember, Purple means Protection, and the following products will make allergen-prep items clearly visible and help minimise the risk of incorrect usage or contamination.
Always remember to Wash and Sterilise products after use!
Following on from purple utensils and an established allergen-free preparation area, there are a few other ways to help prevent cross-contamination.
Using purple gastronorm containers in the kitchen is a great way to prevent cross-contamination. The airtight lids and hygienic plastic bodies will allow for food to be stored safely and securely. Furthermore, these containers can also be utilised to store allergen utensils when not in use. We've included some of our other cross-contamination and storage products below.
As kitchens often produce food in mass for later serving, it can be useful to highlight produce that contains allergens so anyone in the kitchen at a later date is aware. Our purple coded food storage labels are a simple way to avoid any cross-contamination incidents.
Furthermore, we also have labels that can be used to show that dishes or stored foodstuffs are Dairy Free or Gluten Free.
Jacqui McPeake is a fully accredited allergen expert with over 35 years of experience in the catering and hospitality industry. Through JACS, Jacqui offers expert advice and consultancy on allergens that includes external auditing, workshops and support to ensure compliance with Food Safety legislation.
"As the main crockery supplier in my previous role and now as a sometime advisor, I've known Stephensons for many years. They are a local family business with a fantastic team.
Recently I was invited to talk to Stephensons about their allergen-related products. Their purple range of allergen utensils, chopping boards and knives are used in many kitchens and are helping to promote allergen awareness and improve good practice. I found that their team were keen to fully understand how these products were used in the workplace so that they could provide accurate advice to their customers. I can assert that the team at Stephensons have taken the time to understand this critical and contemporary topic so that they can confidently support and advise their customers."
For more information on the allergen related services available from JACS Ltd, please click below to visit their website.