Apologies… But it is December 13th – launch day for the new allergen regulations – so I cannot resist another little salutary tale. This time to do with the implementation of the regulations in the food service industry.
I just received the following email from a good friend who does not himself work in the business but knows that I do.
A cousin is staying with us, while working in the kitchen of a famous London restaurant that shall remain nameless. I thought of you when he told me, a few weeks ago, that he was to undergo training on the new law about allergens and their labelling. It was to take place one afternoon, after the restaurant closed for the day.
His employer had contracted with a specialist company that provides training services to the food industry related to safety and other legal requirements, including labelling. It shall also remain nameless. They offer training on the client’s own premises. And provide educational materials in advance.
The first hint that all was not perfect came when I read the few pages of training documents that were sent. They were obviously written for a shop rather than a restaurant.
On the appointed day, the training session began at 5pm. In fact, no one from the specialist training company appeared. The lead was taken by the head chef of the restaurant, who gave a talk, lasting 10 minutes, about allergens. This was followed by a tick-the-box test for all the participating staff to prove that they had absorbed the necessary. This also lasted about 10 minutes. Everyone passed. They were all awarded a certificate.
This scenario – a scary one for anyone with serious allergies who was hoping that the new regulations would make all things good – will, no doubt be played out in far too many establishments across the country – indeed across Europe. However, I hasten to add that there are also very many establishments, and trainers, who take allergy extremely seriously and make huge and very successful efforts to cater, safely, for their allergic and coeliac customers. Just take a look at the judges comments on the winners of the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards to see how well some eateries can do it. And, if you need good training, take a look at some of the training groups listed on the FFEOA site.