This informal CPD article ‘Do you have to cater for someone with an allergy?’ was provided by Janet Cousins from The Food Health & Hygiene Company, an organisation delivering user-friendly online and face-to-face courses in the legal requirements and practical skills necessary for safe food preparation.
If you work in catering or hospitality, you are probably already aware of the importance of understanding food allergies. But if you’re just cooking for guests with allergies, it might feel a little daunting. But it doesn’t have to be, with some simple precautions.
Read on for hints and tips to keep your guest safe from a dangerous allergic reaction. In this article, I will explain about:
- The 14 most common allergens.
- How to store and prepare allergic ingredients.
- How to safely serve foods containing allergenic ingredients.
You cannot always tell from the name of a prepared food, what ingredients it contains.
e.g. cakes may contain ground almonds, pastries may be glazed with egg or milk, burgers, cakes and biscuits may contain soya flour. It is therefore very important to check the label!
Natasha’s Law came into effect in October 2021, after a student named Natasha had a severe allergic reaction from unknowingly eating sesame in a sandwich which resulted in her death. The bread contained sesame seeds which were not listed as an allergen on the label. This brought greater transparency about what people are buying and eating.
Therefore, when you buy anything pre-packaged from the shops which contain allergenic ingredients, the law states that they should always be printed in Bold on the label. This makes it easy to identify them.
Storing and preparing allergenic ingredients
These ingredients should always be stored separately in sealed containers, either in a fridge if it has a “use by” date or in a dry store cupboard for “best before” foods.
When preparing these ingredients at home, it is important to ensure they do not come into contact with other ingredients, particularly if your guest has a known allergy. That includes chopping boards, cloths and other utensils which should be thoroughly washed between uses.
The simplest way is, after washing your hands thoroughly, to always prepare the food for the person with an allergen first, putting it in a separate, well covered container before proceeding with the rest of the food. Always check the labels on pre-prepared foods, even stock cubes, as you might find they contain some unexpected allergenic ingredients.
Serving foods containing allergenic ingredients
You’ve prepared the food, and it’s all ready to serve to your guests. But remember, allergens can still get mixed in by accident. So, just to be sure, here’s how to serve food safely:
Always check with your guest first to establish what allergy they have.
Ensure the food containing allergens does not come into contact with other food!
Always use separate dishes and utensils for serving this food to ensure there is no cross-contamination.
Store leftovers in separate containers.
We hope this article was helpful. For more information from The Food Health & Hygiene Company, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, you can go to the CPD Industry Hubs for more articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.
For more information from The Food Health & Hygiene Company, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.