The free-from market is booming. In the first three months of 2017, 54% of consumers purchased a free-from item[i]. This demand, coupled with the allergen labelling legislation, has pushed allergens to the top of the agenda for university caterers.
Operators now need to understand and clearly label the ingredients within every dish or drink they serve. This can range from the more obvious, such as eggs being used in pasta, to the more obscure instances like the inclusion of anchovies in Worcestershire sauce, for example.
To help operators ensure all basis are covered, we’ve complied an allergens checklist to use when menu planning:
1. Identify what constitutes an allergen – Everyone from front of house to kitchen chefs will need this information at their fingertips. It’s a good idea to refresh this when menus change and make it very clear when new dishes are introduced. As part of the TUCO Academy, we run regular one day courses across the country on allergen awareness which will enable caterers to identify risk foods, manage food information, understand labelling and ultimately reduce risks.
2. Have a view of your supply chain – Online procurement systems can track ingredients, flag allergens and update in real time to provide all the information needed. We’ve heard from our own members how access to one central procurement resource (such as TUCO Online) can free up time, which would have been spent manually checking the supply chain, so it can be reinvested in front-line services.
3. Avoid cross-contamination – This is essential, especially when it comes to dealing with ingredients that contain any of the specified allergens. Most kitchens will already be mindful of this, making sure separate work surfaces and tools are available for preparation.
4. Communication is key – Flagging which dishes contain common allergens can help customers determine if a dish is suitable for them. This is best done on menus and boards in front of house areas, using a visual key where possible to help customer understanding.
For more information on TUCO and its allergen training courses, please visit: www.tuco.ac.uk
[i] BBC News, April 2017