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One of the biggest issues in catering right now is allergy management, particularly with the imminent arrival of Natasha’s Law in October 2021. It shines a new spotlight and food allergies and intolerances, a subject that continues to impact caterers and food suppliers.

There are an estimated 2 million+ people living with a diagnosed food allergy in the UK, but disorders where allergy may be involved affect about one in three of the UK population (around 20 million people) and the numbers are rising. In fact, Natasha Allergy Research Foundation states that the number of people living with allergies in the UK is rising by 5% every year. This is without even taking into account disorders caused or worsened by food intolerances, such as coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

With numbers on the increase, it is more important than ever for caterers and food/drink suppliers to make changes and put in place policies to help reduce the risk from food allergies and intolerances. Aside from regulatory compliance and legal requirements, failing to consider the needs of millions of potential customers could hit the bottom line too. And consumer confidence is dwindling.

In a recent survey by Coeliac UK, nearly half (48%) of respondents were most worried about being accidentally ‘glutened’ (when food contains, or is cross-contaminated with, gluten). Nearly 60% are less confident in finding gluten-free venues than they were pre-COVID.

Meeting customer expectations

How then, can caterers meet their obligations and responsibilities without impacting performance or profit? I have my own experience of food intolerances and here are my three top tips for venues:

  1. Know the law. Above all else, make sure your business is compliant. There’s a lot in the trade press at the moment about Natasha’s Law. Under changes to the Food Information Regulations which come into force on 1st October 2021, food which is prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) must be labelled with a list of ingredients, including emphasised allergens in bold, italics, uppercase, coloured text or any combination of these. You can get more information here.
  • Make use of resources and support schemes from charities. Coeliac UK, for example, is running its ‘Shine the Light’ programme, highlighting venues that are committed to providing safe gluten-free options, as well as providing a pocket checklist of things to ask before and during a meal out of home. Similarly Crohn’s & Colitis UK marked World IBD Day last month, raising awareness and funds for people with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. All of these programmes – and wider activity from the charities too – provide vital information to help caterers adapt their operations.
  • Read the trade press. You don’t have to ask me twice to read the industry press, but there really is no better source for industry updates and trends. With food allergies and intolerances playing such an important part in modern catering operations, it’s a fantastic opportunity to pick up helpful tips and tricks to optimise your food prep and delivery without risking health or alienating those with intolerances.

Want to know more? Keep up to date with updates and advice for the foodservice industry by connecting with me on LinkedIn.