Over 2 million people in the UK have their food choice dictated by their allergy/intolerance, and 22% of the population believe they have a food allergy: these are basic facts with profound implications for the hospitality sector.
Last week, H & C News attended the FATC conference outlined below and – along with quite a number of the delegates attending – started to get to grips with the detail and realities of an issue to which we shall be returning regularly.
Problem – or opportunity?
The food service supply chain is being required by legislation to change its approach – major changes to Food Labelling Laws will affect ALL parts of the chain, including hospitality – but market forces will have even more impact. Quite simply, 22% of the population, plus their friends and relatives, will require hospitality establishments to serve their needs – or take their business elsewhere.
Time, therefore, to take a serious look at how your business is addressing and preparing for this issue and – for many – to treat it as an opportunity, not just a problem.
Over 80 businesses seek advice
Over 80 businesses from across the country attended the launch event for The Food Allergy Training Consultancy (FATC) to gain advice on how to fully prepare for massive changes to food labelling legislation taking place next year. The event, held at the Novotel Hotel in Southampton, saw over 25 major UK organisations supporting the activities by speaking at the event, sharing their expertise, and showcasing fantastic ‘free-from’ products to delegates.
Major changes to EU Food Labelling Laws
There are an estimated 21 million adults in the UK who suffer from at least one allergy, yet many food businesses have little knowledge in this area, and many are unaware of the imminent legal changes. From December 2014, current EU food labelling laws will change: all establishments or suppliers providing food products will need to provide full allergy information to customers.
There are 14 different food allergens which will need to be clearly listed in order to comply with the new laws. This includes on packaging, menus, shelving or information provided by staff (who will need to know the contents of each product). Trading Standards will be enforcing the new requirements once they come into force and non-compliance could result in prosecutions.
Best practice advice
The launch event saw key industry leaders come together to explore the issue in depth and advise on the best practice techniques to succeed in this area.
Catherine Salloux opened the event highlighting the major progress that ASK Italian has made to their menus to identify nut contents, vegetarian suitability of meals, and the development of Non Gluten Containing Ingredients (NGCI).
22% believe they have a food allergy
Lynne Regent, CEO of The Anaphylaxis Campaign provided some hard hitting facts. 22% of the population believe they have a food allergy, meaning the issue is not niche and is indeed on the increase worldwide. 1/50 children will have a nut allergy, and peanut allergy cases alone have tripled in the last decade. There are around 20 recorded deaths per year as a result of a food allergy.
Food allergy mum and Journalist, Alexa Baracaia, spoke from the heart on life as a mum of a 3 year old with multiple food allergies. The reality means suitable foods are either not available or not easily accessible. The weekly shop means visiting 8-10 different supermarkets, followed by calls to manufacturers to clarify the contents and factory processes (for risks of contamination), and companies often take weeks to respond. She highlighted key suppliers and what food companies can do to win business from a food allergy customer.
Sue Hattersley from The Food Standards Agency, spoke about the legislation specifically. Over 2 million people in the UK have their food choice dictated by their allergy/intolerance. Some can react to as little as 1mg of food. Labelling changes must be complete by 13th December 2014, and must be available upon request on menus, in information folders or verbally by trained staff.
The growing market
Michelle Berriedale-Johnson from Foods Matter/Free-From Awards, discussed the benefits of providing for the food allergy customer and doing it well. In the last 4 years the UK Free-From market has grown over 60%. The Free-From Awards have been launched to recognise best practice in the industry.
Nicola Hutchins from Blake Lapthorn Solicitors covered the legal implications of non-compliance of the new laws, which could ultimately see company fines of up to £5,000 per breach. She also reviewed recent local prosecutions, such as the Jamie Oliver restaurant in Portsmouth.
The impact of social media
Digital Blonde’s Karen Fewell, hosted the conference and highlighted the power of social media for customer feedback, and particularly the opportunities with the popular activity of food photo sharing. In the last 30 days alone, there have been 17,953 mentions of ‘Gluten Free’ on social media, highlighting the subject as a continuing hot topic.
Best practice in food preparation
Reading Scientific Services’ Simon Flanagan demonstrated that using best practice in food preparation, storage, cleanliness, training and communication means that most kitchens can indeed cater for both regular meals and the food allergy customer.
Gluten Free products are being launched
Catherine Hinchcliff of major food supplier 3663 discussed the changes they have incorporated to help businesses with food procurement. Working with Coeliac UK, 3663 have launched 48 Gluten Free products in the last month.
How Sodexo is implementing change
Sodexo UK & Ireland serve over 1 million meals a day. Wan Mak and David Mulcahy discussed how a large scale company can still make these changes successfully by engaging with chefs to create great recipes using Free-From products. They have also rolled out a mandatory e-learning scheme for staff.
The Food Allergy Training Consultancy (FATC)
Caroline Benjamin organised the event and set-up The Food Allergy Training Consultancy to help businesses, offering both training and consultancy services. She said: “I am thrilled that so many businesses from across the country have come together to find out more about their responsibilities of accurate food labelling going forward.
“The new legislation really will mean significant changes for all food businesses, both large and small, and I hope the delegates now have more understanding on the preparation required to meet the compulsory regulations. The best practice techniques demonstrated really have been inspiring. If food businesses or venues have any further queries or would like more advice and support, then we are here to help in any way we can.”
Food Allergy Training Consultancy – Background
Caroline Benjamin (50) is a food intolerance sufferer from Eastleigh in Hampshire. Over the last 13 years, her experiences of eating out have resulted in minimal choice, high costs and a lack of knowledge on the consequences of serving food containing allergens. This combined with the major changes to food laws, has seen Caroline establish herself as a ‘one-stop-shop’ on all things food allergy related. As a result she has created the Food Allergy Training Consultancy to help food businesses and venues improve their product offering and knowledge, and prepare for major changes to EU food labelling legislation.
Major UK companies supporting the event
The Food Standards Agency, The Anaphylaxis Campaign, Sodexo, 3663, Ask Italian, Trading Standards, Reading Scientific Services, Foods Matter & FreeFrom Food Awards, Tourism South East, Blake Lapthorn, Sodexo UK & Ireland, Warburtons, Young’s Seafood, Celia, Udi’s Gluten Free (Boulder Brands), Red House Foods, Glebe Farm, Venice Bakery, Newburn Bakehouse, Atkins & Potts, Menu Analyser, Uncle Bens, Elena’s Gluten Free Way, Mozzarisella, Digital Blonde, Green Beers