The recent news about several tragic incidents related to food allergens has shaken up the hospitality industry. It’s been a stark reminder of the necessity for tighter food allergen management and controls. However, our food safety experts are still hearing about incidents throughout the UK where businesses are not following basic food allergen rules. It means that customers are still being put at risk of being served food that will make them ill, or at worst, can be fatal as a result of an allergic reaction or other chronic health condition.
We believe it is imperative that all restaurant, pub, hotel, cafe and other food and beverage businesses guard themselves against falling foul of these vital steps to keep customers safe from harm. For this reason we want to share with you some food allergen management suggestions, which your business may wish to consider to improve its food allergen standard operating procedure.
Over the next three weeks we’ll take you through three main topics related to food allergen management. We’ll provide detailed recommendations that can help your business go above and beyond when it comes to managing food allergens. This week it’s all about food allergen training.
What are the regulations for food allergen training?
The EU Food Information Regulation 2014 requires that all food handlers have knowledge of allergens and are able to provide allergen information for all food sold. This is a basic requirement that should be adhered to at all costs. The best way to ensure your food handlers have this required knowledge of course is to train them properly.
There are some questions that you likely have in mind though. First of all how much training is enough? Does training your food handlers safeguard your business from making mistakes with food allergens? You see, it’s important not only to be compliant legally but also to have the confidence that your business has done all it can to ensure the safety of your customers.
Our top tips on training to help you manage food allergens more safely in your business
Here are the two training related suggestions for improving food allergen standard operating procedure:
- Beyond training food handlers it’s actually imperative to train other members of staff too!
All your staff that handle food in the kitchen must be food allergen trained. But have you thought about training room service staff and receptionists if they take room service orders? What about sales staff who take function bookings? Investing in training for these additional employees is critical to managing food allergens properly in your business and bridges the gap of unawareness that otherwise leaves room for error. The more people that are trained the more likely someone in the chain is able to pick up and rectify any mistakes that are made in the process of serving a customer that suffers from an allergy.
- Provide 6-monthly allergen refresher training for all staff.
To be sure that your staff continue to take allergens seriously it is beneficial to make it an ongoing priority for management. Investing in refresher training is a trade-off that we cannot recommend more highly. Keeping a close eye on staff completing refresher training is as important as the training they received as part of their induction. As with anything, knowledge begins to dwindle over time and repetition is vital to learning and retaining information. Proving refresher training ensures that all staff knowledge is up to the standard it should be.
One of our customers, a high end pub operator with four sites, has achieved an incredibly robust training system. Within the first month of any staff member’s employment they are tasked to complete all the required food safety and food allergen induction training. Because this is monitored so well, Head Office will contact the General Manager if a particular member of staff has not completed the training within the deadline, requesting an explanation for the delay. They even train management teams on the importance of completing training in accordance with company policy! The key thing to take away is how seriously this customer’s Head Office takes training and the keen interest they show in monitoring it appropriately.
So follow our customer’s example and train all members of staff and monitor training tightly, regularly providing refresher training to improve your business’ food allergen standard operating procedure.
Next week’s tips on documenting food allergens
Next week we’ll give you some tips on documenting allergens appropriately. We’ll give indications on what is required by law as well as several extra recommendations we provide our customers to help them with their food allergen management…so watch this space!