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Food Safety Blog Tips by Sylvia Anderson, The Food Hygiene Expert!

Why is Food Allergen Awareness and Training Important For Your Business?

Customers with allergies are feeling more confident about eating out or ordering a takeaway with all the press relations in the media in regards to the new food allergen regulations.

But does this pose both a hazard and an opportunity for the catering and hospitality businesses?

Usually, customers are not aware of how a catering kitchen works so they do not obviously think about the challenges a food business faces regarding potential cross-contamination in regards to allergens.

It can be very difficult for a catering kitchen to produce lots of dishes each day and to produce a 100% gluten, dairy or nut-free dish if they are using any of those ingredients in other food dishes. Is this really safe for the customer?

If a customer does have an allergy, the food they are served must be 100% free from the food they are allergic to, but this is not 100% foolproof! Some of the main reasons for this is short of time in service, not washing equipment and utensils correctly and cross-contamination.

The hospitality and catering businesses are required to have written evidence of the 14 main allergens contained in their food dishes in their HACCP policies or food safety management systems and/or safer food better business packs by the food standards agency.

However, this is extremely hard to manage successfully.  Menus change on daily basis, specials are put on the menu at short notice, the dish specification may change according to the head chef and maybe suppliers substitute a different product on delivery if your normal item is out of stock, and so on, so it is not so easy.

So, the best way to protect your customers, your business and employees are to have legal up to date legal documentation to have written evidence of the 14 allergens contained in your food menu for all your dishes.

It would be best to complete an allergen matrix for your usual food menu as this raises awareness in the food kitchen and complies with food allergen law. But, if you have an ever-changing food menu or don’t work to food dish specifications, there is potential for your allergen matrix to be incorrect due to ingredient changes for your food dishes.

How Sylvia A Consultancy can protect your food business in regards to allergens:


  • Sylvia A Consultancy can deliver and implement Food Allergen Awareness and Food Allergen Management courses for the chefs, food handlers, front of house employees, supervisors and managers.


  • Sylvia A Consultancy can give you a prominent food allergen sign (or add to your menus) – “Please let us know if you have any food allergies or intolerances”.


  • Sylvia A Consultancy can devise a bespoke and tailored Allergen Matrix.


  • Sylvia A Consultancy can train your front of house team in how to take an order, how to ask your customers if they have any food allergies or intolerances.  How to add this information to the order against the dishes the customer has ordered and to always double-check.


  • Sylvia A Consultancy can train the food handlers and chefs in the kitchen, to always double-check all food ingredients for any dishes ordered where there is a food allergy or intolerance. To train the team to remember how to check the stocks, sauces, salad dressings etc. Also when there is as a change in the supplier or brand which may mean a change of ingredients for your menu.