Everyone who works in hospitality and foodservice knows that food is about so much more than just eating. And when it comes to catering to certain markets, this is more important than ever. Servicing the likes of hospitals, aged care facilities and schools need a big nod to not only nutrition, but needs to cater specifically for a heightened risk of allergies and different needs.
For those businesses catering to these markets, or wanting to move into servicing these areas, awareness of allergic reactions is becoming increasingly important – and necessary – given that these reactions can sometimes be life threatening. Although nuts are known as one of the most common causes of severe reactions, to the point that many schools no longer allow peanut butter on site, any food has the potential to cause an allergy.
Many caterers, manufacturers and retailers have responded to the need take allergies into account, and many have made great steps towards to trying to keep the allergic consumer safe, but sufferers are still being ‘caught out’ by unexpected ingredients, sometimes due to tiny traces of a food that have the potential to cause a severe life threatening reaction. So what can businesses serving these markets do?
- Train all staff to be vigilant in regards to food allergy issues
- If you can’t 100% service a particular allergen, don’t do it
- Keep preparation areas nut free or gluten free, including utensils, and ensure every staff member is aware of the separation
- Ensure suppliers provide comprehensive and accurate details of all ingredients and processes
- Avoid unnecessary use of nuts as garnishes
- Label food correctly and clearly if packaged food is sold or delivered, and highlight allergens on menus by way of symbols or similar
- Use the allergen name in the dish if possible
- Train your staff to be aware of the implications of severe allergies and how to cater for the market safely
Customer safety depends on effective communication between the foodservice provider and their client, including those who will be serving the food at the final stage. Early communication helps caterers and other eating establishments plan for safe alternatives and happy end eaters.