In a long article in Monday’s Daily Mail Prue Leith, ‘the renowned chef and TV expert’ condemned the new EU allergen regulations as a ‘bureaucratic nightmare’ for small restaurants and cafés. ‘My worry is that it will kill innovation and experimentation in the kitchen and cooking what is available daily in the market,’ she said.
The new regulations, requiring all eating out establishments to be able to list any of the 14 major allergens that may be in their food, are part of the labelling changes coming into force in December this year to help those Europeans suffering from food allergies, coeliac disease and other food-related health problems – now a significant section of the population.
Indeed, figures published this week by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) suggest that up to 17% of Europeans now suffer from a food allergy, while incidence of coeliac disease (requiring a gluten free diet) continues to grow year on year. Currently 1 in every 70 people are diagnosed as coeliac but the number of coeliacs as yet undiagnosed are thought by some to be as many as 500,000.
The facts are different
Contrary to what the Daily Mail suggests:
- The regulations DO NOT require all allergens to be listed on the menu – they just require the outlet (the chef and the waiting staff) to know what allergens have been used in the food so that they can tell an allergic or coeliac customer, who will then be able to order a meal that is safe for them.
- The regulations DO NOT, as Prue Leith suggests, stifle creativity – they merely require the chef to make a note of any allergens that he/she may use in a dish so that an allergic/coeliac customer can be informed.
This does not constitute a ‘bureaucratic nightmare’ – merely a slight expansion of existing record keeping practices.
Those with food allergies and coeliac disease rarely eat out
As of now those suffering from food allergies and coeliac disease eat out less than once a week compared to three to four times a week among the average population. Why?
Because they do not trust restaurants or cafés to understand about their allergies or to be able to offer them a reasonable choice of ‘safe’ foods.
Massive opportunity for food service
The imposition of the new regulations offers a massive opportunity to food service outlets who can use them to help develop interesting and ‘safe’ allergen free dishes to attract this population.
Good ‘FreeFrom’ restaurants will:
- Get the loyal and enthusiastic custom of food allergies and coeliacs, who will be able, at last, to eat out enjoyably and safely.
- Get the custom of their friends and families who will accompany them to their new ‘safe’ outlets.
- Benefit from the free publicity generated by the very active allergy/coeliac social media community who will tweet and Facebook their new ‘eating out find’ enthusiastically.
FreeFrom Eating Out Awards
To encourage and celebrate excellence in this new era of ‘freefrom’ catering the very successful grocery industry FreeFrom Food Awards have launched, this summer, FreeFrom Eating Out Awards for restaurants, cafés, pubs, B&Bs, schools and other not for profit food services.
With Sodexo as headline sponsors and under the patronage of Antony Worrall Thompson, the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards opened last month; entry closes the end of August. The presentations will take place at the new Food Matters Live Event in Excel in November.