Taking Allergens Seriously!!

Catering for customers with food allergies and intolerance has been high on the agenda since the change in legislation in 2014, when it became law for information about allergens to be made readily available to customers.

Despite this, there are a disturbing number of eateries who are still failing to label allergens clearly enough, as the recent Food Standards Agency local authority food law report demonstrates. Worse still are the restaurateurs who ignore the law completely, such as the well-publicised case of Mohammed Zaman, the owner of a takeaway who was jailed for six years for the manslaughter of a customer who had an allergic reaction to a curry.

Mr Zaman hadn’t paid heed to the official warning he had received after another customer reacted to one of his curries just three weeks previously, and had continued to willfully put profit ahead of compliance with allergen legislation and basic customer care. Having hospitalised one customer and killed another, the Indian takeaway still doesn’t seem to understand the severity of their actions, with Mr Zaman’s son recently sending a promotional email saying that they:

“sincerely apologise to all our loyal customers for the recent heavy press surrounding the Easingwold branch and the somewhat disappointing decision for our founding father Mr Zaman. We are now in the process of launching a new dessert menu and have hired an exclusive pastry chef from London to design this. Our philosophy, started by our founder, [Mohammed] Khalique Zaman, was and still is to create real quality Indian cuisine of the highest standard.”

As a catering and hospitality consultant, I’ve designed menus with allergen details for restaurants, bars, bistros and hotels, established allergen coding schemes for kitchens and and set up systems to be able to maintain both of these to a high standard. One company which really stands out for me is Heaven Scent, located in rural Perthshire, which doesn’t just comply with allergen legislation, they work, live and breathe it. Six years ago, inspired by three regular customers with complicated dietary requirements, this small coffee shop in Milnathort, Perthshire designed a special “FreeFrom” menu and started training staff on the 14 major allergens. For outside catering, specially prepared food is clearly labelled but still part of the main service with an equal level of presentation rather than to put to one side for those who have asked for it.

More recently, Heaven Scent has reprinted their main menu to incorporate all dishes, all of which are creative, tasty and appealing to customers with more restricted options. So rather the standard mushroom stroganoff or basic salad, they offer a full gluten free breakfast, dairy free / gluten free / vegan butternut squash, red pepper and coconut curry and dairy free seared scallops and chorizo.

Heaven Scent Kitchen, their outside catering branch, provided a BBQ for a family fun day for over 300 people in Edinburgh at the weekend. They had asked their customer for special dietary requirements in advance, but it soon became clear that many guests had not provided these prior to the event. Being prepared, Heaven Scent Kitchen had already printed out the list of food containing any allergens, had more alternatives than requested and all staff had been informed about the ingredients of the dishes.

While it is vital that catering companies and outlets take allergen legislation seriously, like Heaven Scent they must go above and beyond to look after and cater for their guests with special dietary requirements, making eating out a truly enjoyable, no-risk experience.

Victus Consultancy has recently joined forces with The Intolerant Gourmand to tell the world about the severity of all things Allergens. The meeting came about by chance but with a heart felt mission from the Gourmand and the desire to train from Victus, this pair are not stopping until every food business in Britain sits up and listens. Together we want to tell the world about the severity of this, every business has a duty, an obligation and together we will stand and be listened to!!

Contact Victus today to discuss how we can help you with allergen legislation, and to create delicious FreeFrom dishes to ensure a great dining experience for all your customers.