Will the government shake things up? I hope so.
In early September Mr Trent Zimmerman MP announced a parliamentary inquiry into allergic diseases. Nearly 200 submissions have been made to date, sharing the difficulties faced by individuals living with allergic disease.
A common issue raised by people with food allergy is feeling too nervous to eat out. Some of the reasons given for this ill-ease include a perceived lack of knowledge by wait staff, fears of incorrect labelling, risks of cross-contamination, lack of alternate menu choices etc. My personal experience supports these fears. While some venues are doing an amazing job, there still is a lack of choice, especially for children with food allergy, plus real risks of cross-contamination.
There are simple steps that can reduce your risk of contaminating food and exposing your customers to food allergens. Think 'KISS' - Keep it separate. Simple.
- Label and store free-from food separately from other food containing allergens (egg, cow's milk, peanut, tree nuts, sesame, soy, fish, shellfish, and wheat)
- Regularly check ingredient labels
- Prepare free-from foods with separate and easily identifiable utensils
- Cook foods using clean or separate equipment
- Use separate and clearly labelled condiments, spreads and sauces that don’t contain crumbs or contaminants
- Prepare and serve food separately – plate up on separate crockery and deliver it first
- Use separate apron/gloves/teatowel when preparing food
- Communicate food requirements clearly to all staff
- Communicate all ingredients clearly to customers
It does take effort, but that effort will pay off. Customers with food allergy dine with friends and family who can eat from your regular menu. And customers with food allergy have a strong word-of-mouth network - they will travel to dine out if their needs can be met.