How can the introduction of the Food Information Regulation help the eating out market?

With the eating out sector expected to grow by 3% in 2014 and the industry expecting economic recovery to take hold in the second half of 2015; the Food Safety Consortium (FSC) discusses how adopting best practice, when implementing the Food Information Regulation, could strengthen consumer spending in the sector.

The allergic consumer, a growing market

In the UK around 1-2% of adults and 5-8% of children are reported to have been diagnosed with a food allergy.  This equates to around 2 million people within the UK and with food allergies now becoming as common as asthma and hayfever, this number is on the increase.

The eating out experience for an allergy sufferer

The serious and fatal consequences a food allergy can have on a sufferer makes eating out very stressful and limiting.  There is no cure for food allergies and therefore for someone suffering with an allergy their only remedy is to avoid the foods that can make them ill. James Deverill, Santia’s Head of Consultancy and food allergy sufferer, comments in a recent blog for Santia, “Trust is the concept which forms the central theme in managing food allergies. When eating out in a restaurant or other venue, I am looking for information and reassurances that enables me to trust the food provider. This means chefs and staff who are knowledgeable and who can provide reassurance with respect to ingredients and, in particular cross contamination.”

A survey conducted by the Freefrom food show confirms this. The survey asked why allergy sufferers ate out so rarely and found that 53% of sufferers surveyed, had a mistrust of staff to understand their allergies or special dietary requirements. The survey also found that 67% of respondents also ate out less due to a lack of choice.

So how can the implementation of the Food Information Regulation help food businesses?

The implementation of the regulation this coming December will change how allergen information is provided and presented for all foods and will therefore impact restaurants, cafes, fast food outlets, delicatessens, butchers, bakeries, institutional and other caterers.

Don Meredith the FSC’s Director of Food comments “The regulation aims to assist allergen suffers with making informed and safe choices when eating out. This provides the eating out sector with an opportunity to demonstrate to those two million plus allergy sufferers, that their allergies and dietary requirements are understood. Paying lip service to the regulation will not instil confidence and therefore businesses will fail to win over the 53% of sufferers who have mistrust in the sector. Staff training and a culture of food safety with regards to allergens is key”.

So what does the FSC recommend?   

Make your customers feel comfortable about asking for information. Put information on your website, menus, specials boards and any other customer communication, invite customers to ask you about allergens and let them know you cater for their needs. 

When you receive a request for information, handle it effectively and in a way that instils confidence. To achieve this, carefully consider how to handle requests for allergen information and make sure there are processes in place for staff to obtain the information. A member of staff should never guess and ideally you should have an ‘allergen champion’ on every shift, to go to for help. If you are unable to provide the information, you should always say so, allowing the customer to make an informed decision.

The knowledge and understanding each member of staff has regarding the seriousness of food allergies is key to the successful implementation of FIR 2014 and meeting customer needs of this growing market. Not only should staff know what to do if approached for information but those preparing food, should understand the importance of knowing what ingredients have been used in the food they make and how to avoid cross-contamination.  Ensuring all food operatives are trained to have an awareness of allergens and not just the process is the only way to effectively deliver this.

The FSC’s training solution

In order to provide the eating out sector with an effective and flexible learning solution, the FSC has launched allergenaware, an eLearning course that is specifically designed for this sector. The course provides food operatives, with an interactive learning solution that gives flexibility with regards to when and where best to study. Accessed via a cloud based learning management system, the course can be accessed from anywhere using a laptop, PC, mobile device or tablet.

The course duration is typically two hours (depending on learning speed) and will provide food operatives with an understanding of:

  • The difference between allergies and food intolerances
  • Food allergy signs and symptoms
  • The 14 most common food allergens known within the UK
  • How to manage allergens within a catering environment and the preventive measures required to eliminate cross-contamination
  • Allergen labelling and consumer advice
  • Current and future regulations including FIR 2014

The course is currently available at a discounted cost of £18 per delegate with further discounts available for large group bookings. To find out more click here or contact us on 02920 852 852 /

Post date: 05 Sep 2014

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