Parliamentary enquiry uncovers need for food allergy training in cafes and restaurants

It's official. More education and training is needed to help customers with food allergies.

Food Allergy Training for Foodservice

FeedMeToo welcomes the findings of a parliamentary enquiry into allergies and anaphylaxis that found more education and training is needed in the food service sector. The Inquiry, chaired by Mr Trent Zimmerman MP, found that quality of life is greatly impaired because of allergic conditions which range from eczema, allergic rhinitis through to food and insect allergy and risk of anaphylaxis

Check out the report, called ‘Walking the Allergy Tightrope’ for more details.

The summary of findings as it relates to foodservice is below:

Vocational Education Training - Hospitality

The Committee received evidence advocating for improved practices in hospitality and training in relation to allergies.65
The NAS advocated for accredited food allergy training to be incorporated in hospitality courses. The NAS called for the ‘inclusion of an accredited food allergen management training course that meets the National Allergy Strategy Minimum standards for food allergen management training, in all hospitality training courses.’66
The Allergen Bureau told the Committee that they believe a gap currently exists in the institutional education for food manufacturing professionals:
Many of the current TAFE and University courses, for general manufacturing workers through to food science graduates, do not adequately address food allergens and their management. To address this gap, a review of the Cert I, II and III in Food Processing is currently underway, led by Skills Impact, and subject matter experts in food allergen management have been consulted in this area.
Food science degrees in university also do not all address food allergens and their management in food industry – being knowledge which is traditionally obtained once working in the industry.67
Several submitters suggested a certificate to serve food safely with regard to allergies, similar to the Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certificate:
Given the increasing prevalence of anaphylaxis and the risk to life if hospitality staff inadvertently serve a person food containing that person’s allergen, I would like to see a mandatory ‘Allergies and Anaphylaxis’ training program that servers of food are required to undertake, similar to how servers of alcohol are required to undertake a ‘Responsible Service of Alcohol’ program.68
In relation to education and training, the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association (R&CA) suggested that allergen and anaphylaxis training be incorporated into food safety and handling training nationwide:
Currently, there are three levels of training available to employees within food businesses, a safe food handling certificate (both back and front of house) which is issued by state food regulation agencies as well as a single food safety supervisor who is responsible for management of food safety practices across the business. Also, a single staff member (usually the front of house restaurant manager) will hold a full first aid certificate. The food safety supervisor may have some allergen training, but this is an optional competency in certain states and not common across food service businesses.69
R&CA has long held the view that mandating training for food handlers under a nationally consistent system is good public policy.70
Currently in Australia only NSW, ACT, QLD and VIC require businesses to have a food safety supervisor. In the jurisdictions where a food safety supervisor is required, there are differences with regards to:
  • Which businesses are required to have a food safety supervisor and the reasoning behind why they need to have a food safety supervisor;
  • The training requirements for food safety supervisors;
  • Whether a period of currency applies to the training required; and
  • Regulation of training provided to food safety supervisors.71
NSW is the only jurisdiction that regulates the training for food safety supervisors and NSW has included food allergen management in this training.72
The Committee received a submission from the Food and Controlled Drugs Branch, South Australian Health that suggested that food service businesses who choose to offer allergen free foods may be required to have a dedicated ‘allergen free zone’ or a separate equipment and utensils or thorough cleaning process before preparing allergen free food.73
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