Recently, The Royal Society for Public Health rereleased a report on the most common errors linked to food safety in the hospitality sector. Many scenarios were mentioned in the report including chefs working while poorly, re-usage of dirty cloths and staff who are handling food but forgetting to wash their hands thoroughly were all part of the list. Also on the list was the lack of understanding of the processes necessary to reduce the risk of allergen contamination, proving that despite it being more than two years since the deadline came into force, pubs, bars and restaurants are still struggling with the magnitude of allergen management.
The truth is, many more people in the UK are affected by food poisoning but there are still reported to be around ten fatalities every year in the UK as result of allergic reactions and many thousands more serious cases resulting in hospitalisation. Plus, allergies regularly make headlines so they are never far from our minds.
The point is if you work in hospitality, managing allergens (like it or not) is part of everyday life. What is apparent is the ongoing worry and burden surrounding allergen management is increasing for the industry and this latest report backs up the theory. Before the deadline for the EU regulations for allergens came into play back in December 2014, businesses were concerned about how they would cope with the sheer scale of updating a constant stream of goods and recipe data on a daily basis and the implication this would, in turn, have on their resources. Here we are more than two years later and this is still a problem for many.
Allergies are a serious business, people do die from severe reactions to certain foods and the regulations are there to protect those people but also to protect businesses too. Where many have failed is around giving the correct consumer advice and also not ensuring the correct measures are in place to keep on top of allergens advice and changes, which leads to inaccurate data and the possibility of cross-contamination. The knock-on effect of this is not something most businesses will want to be directly associated with, especially if at the worse case they are linked to a tragic incident.
Allergens won’t go away, so the hospitality industry must be better prepared for dealing with this whether that means briefing staff to the highest standards of allergen advice or indeed making use of advancements in technology to reduce the admin burden of management and the impact of human error – something has to change. Using an effective control system that you can rely on to give you accurate detail such as the nutritional value of an omelette per 100 grams along with the allergens it contains, is a must.
Having an allergen directory will also help; this is essentially a list of all of the products and ingredients you have purchased as well as any recipes that will undoubtedly have allergens present. If you can develop a working list of data that is flexible to updates, that will certainly help.
Using hospitality purchase order systems
Of course, creating and managing data of this nature is very time intensive because it has to be kept up to date consistently. Thankfully with the support of fit for purpose tools available today it is possible to have a database that connects to a live-priced supplier purchase order system which not only offers peace of mind from an allergens perspective (because this detail is included) but it can also help you to save money and reduce admin too.