Free Allergen management advice for caterers

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Food businesses must identify what allergens are present in the food they produce and serve; and have appropriate hygiene controls in place to ensure that cross contamination does not occur from allergenic food and ingredients to non-allergenic food.

Use the checklist below to help make sure you can provide food that is safe for customers with allergies to eat.

Suppliers:

  • Make sure your suppliers are approved and obtain allergen information from them about their products
  • Ensure your suppliers inform you of any changes or substitutions to products/ingredients/recipes supplied so you can update your allergen information

Identifying allergens in the food you prepare/serve:

  • Identify the 14 allergens in ALL your menu items including specials, sauces, cooking oils etc. and record them on an allergen matrix, chef cards or similar documents. (These can be downloaded for free from www.food.gov.uk/allergens)
  • Update your allergen matrix/records when there are changes to recipes/ingredients and make sure both kitchen and front of house staff are made aware of these changes
  • Inform your customers of allergens by displaying an advisory sign on the wall or on the menu
  • Identify allergenic ingredients at self-service points and buffets and if possible separate them from other foods
  • Ensure your website is up to date with accurate allergen information and review it regularly

Staff Training

  • Make sure your staff receive allergen awareness training and know what to do if a customer has an allergic reaction
  • Nominate a Staff Member on each shift who will handle all food allergy queries from both customers and staff
  • Put in place a procedure for recording allergen incidents and complaints and make sure corrective action is taken to prevent it happening again

Controls to prevent cross-contamination:

Make sure you have a documented procedure for the preparation of allergen free foods identifying the controls for allergen contamination at each stage in food production as part of your food safety management system e.g. SFBB, Cook Safe, Safe Catering or own system, for example:

  • Deliveries – check packaging, substitutions, deliveries.
  • Storage – store allergen ingredients in closed containers, in a separate area, labelled with allergens if decanted, store below other ingredients.
  • Preparation – use dedicated scoops and utensils for allergen ingredients, ensure staff are washing their hands; provide hot water, soap and towels at wash hand basins, ensure all equipment is washed at high temperatures with detergent to remove allergens, provide disposable aprons/gloves for food preparation, use colour coded cloths.
  • Cooking – prepare ‘allergy free’ foods in a separate area/time, use separate tongs/cooking utensils, avoid multi-use equipment, label dedicated fryers e.g. gluten free, label cooking oils, keep allergen ingredients covered.
  • Service – make sure front of house staff record allergen requests on orders passed to the kitchen, provide separate tongs/scoops and warning signs on buffets/self-service, clean high-chairs between use, advise customers of cross contamination if different milk used at coffee machines.
  • Transport – identify allergen free food; make allergen information available for customers on delivery.

For more information and advice about allergen management and audits please contact helen@foodsafetylogic.co.uk