Christmas Food

Health claims on food products - what should your business consider?

Winter 2015 Christmas food. Christmas is a time for going out and enjoying food with friends and family. Unfortunately, it is also a risky time for allergen sufferers. In the UK, about 10 people die every year from an allergic reaction to food, and many more end up in hospital. In most cases, the food that causes the reaction is from a restaurant or takeaway. At Christmas, people with food allergies may be visiting new restaurants and ordering from unfamiliar menus with added hazardous festive ingredients such as nuts. An oversight on your part – such as serving someone a food they are allergic to – can damage the reputation of your business, as well as cause serious harm to your customer. Make sure your customers are safe this Christmas by following these simple guidelines: Establish which of the 14 specific food allergens are present in your meals by checking and recording the ingredients list of anything you buy in, and of the recipes of all your meals. Keep up-to-date ingredients information for any ready-made foods that you use. l All allergens should be declared to customers, either in writing or by displaying a notice informing the customer to ask staff for advice about the allergens in your food. l Keep a file or folder containing all allergen information for each dish, so that staff are able to answer enquiries correctly – and show the relevant page to the customer if requested to do so. l When someone asks if a food contains a particular ingredient, always check – never guess. Staff should be aware of the dangers of giving incorrect allergy advice and be trained to check with the kitchen every time someone asks about an allergen. This is especially important at Christmas, when staff are not as familiar with new foods on the menu and you may be employing temporary staff. l If you change the recipe or ingredients of a meal, make sure you update your ingredients information and tell your staff about the change. l If you are making food for someone with an allergy, make sure work surfaces and equipment have been thoroughly cleaned and wash your hands thoroughly before preparing that food. Be careful that you don’t cook it in oil that has already been contaminated with the allergen. l Always store and label foods separately, in closed containers – especially peanuts, nuts, seeds, milk powder and flour – to ensure staff always know which ingredients are in containers, and to prevent cross-contamination. l Be careful with shared equipment, serving spoons, chopping boards, woks etc. Food allergens can be life-threatening and the only way people can manage a food allergy is to avoid the foods that make them ill. For further advice see FSA guidance. Credit: Stuart Powell ssuaphotos / shutterstock