Food Allergen Legislation: how operators are gearing up

By Jo Bruce

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Allergen information, Food allergy

Nuts are one of the 14 allergens which must be identified
Nuts are one of the 14 allergens which must be identified
With the new food allergen legislation coming in to force, Jo Bruce asks operators how they are planning to comply

Focus on staff training

Fuller’s managed sites are gearing up for the new legislation by training for all staff in our pubs to ensure they have an understanding of the regulations and know how to communicate with customers about the issues. They are also utilising a software solution to collect all our supply information and convert that into an allergens grid for all our dishes.

The company is going to offer clear statements on menus directing customers to ask our staff for help regarding allergens.

A spokeswoman said: "This has taken involvement from our food team, purchasing, training, marketing and IT to make sure we have a robust solution that will be provide our customers the information they need to make an informed choice about their purchases whilst with us."

Menu statement

Carol Haime, chef/owner of the Sandrock, near Farnham, Surrey, says:  "The menu will be kept as simple as possible without any symbols, but with a disclaimer on the bottom stating ‘Our food is prepared in a kitchen where nuts, gluten and other food allergens are present. Our menu descriptions do not include all of the ingredients.

"If you have a food allergy or intolerance please speak to a member of staff about your requirements. Fish dishes may contain bones. All weights are approximate when uncooked. Written allergy information is available on request’.

The Sandrock’s staff will refer any allergen queries directly to Carol or her partner David. Their written policy will take the form of a simple spreadsheet with associated notes for each menu on offer. These will be laminated and kept in the bar.

New sheets will be produced for every menu change. A daily sheet for specials will be filled in manually, as will a sheet for occasional specialist parties and buffets.

QR codes for customer information

Harry Kodagoda, director of food, Anglian Country Inns, says: "The company isplanning to introduce a third party-CaterCost which will help us break down all ingredients and nutritional values, streamline recipes and give the company a platform to present and store all allergen information for customers.

He says: "The allergens will be presented to customers in the way of a master folder and also QR codes will be used so that we can display our allergen and nutritional information on menus and websites and can be scanned to obtain information."

Harry adds:"Although initially there is a lot of groundwork to be done to comply to legislation, I believe this will force the hand of the hospitality and food production industry to communicate better with consumers about ingredients, products and recipes. This will, as a result, improve consumer confidence, consistency in products, menu design & buying policies which will only improve the dining experiences for customers with dietary requirements."

Get procedures in place

Richard Holmes, co-owner of Pint Shop, Cambridge, says: "We already have a food facts book in place for all of the items on our menu so our staff can tell customers what’s in them, even our specials. We also have menu sheets available for those on gluten-free, dairy-free etc. diets, which the team are briefed on so they can give a quick response to any customer queries. It’s all about having a procedure in place – we ensure our staff are trained and the kitchen sticks to recipes and doesn’t freestyle."

All systems go

Scott Ferguson, Wadworth’s managed house development chef, says:"With the allergen legislation in mind we have given detailed instructions about the specific ingredients and methods chefs should use to create every dish within our Menubanks, which we have for our five different segments within the managed estate."

He adds: "We have a small supplier chain of no more than 12 different suppliers to help us control our products purchased. This not only ensures that we conform to the new legislation but also that we deliver consistently high quality across all the Wadworth managed houses. "

The company is using a system with Caternet to help them manage their Menubank on line. The system automatically works out the allergen and nutritional information for each recipe that a pub chooses and chefs can also submit recipes on this system for approval to go on our Menubank.

Scott adds: "All staff will be briefed daily on new dishes and will have written information to give to the customer so that they can make an informed decision on what dishes they are able to enjoy."

Menu mapping

Managed pub and bar group TCG has mapped all its menus to ensure that full allergen information is now available for every dish sold across the business.

Allergens training also now forms part of TCG’s core staff training programme, ensuring that both kitchen and front of house staff understand their responsibilities under the new legislation, know where to find the information about their menu when asked, and can advise customers as well as recognise the symptoms of an allergic reaction. 

TCG director of operations Ben Levick said, "We’ve worked with our menu consultant FoodWorks to ensure that we have a full list of the ingredients used in all the dishes served across the business."

He adds: "We’ve also ensured that the information is also available where our pubs and bars offer breakfast or other special menus, as well for the full range of cocktails served across all our venues, along with beer, wine and other drinks. Every venue will have an allergens folder containing details for each."

Shift champion

Tony Leonard, co-owner, the Snowdrop Inn, Lewes, East Sussex, says:

"Our key aim is to make everyone feel genuinely welcome, so anything that improves the experience of our highly diverse customers is positive. Hopefully people will feel more confident in asking about ingredients. Communication is key to the effectiveness of any policy, and we’ll focus on ensuring that front-of-house and kitchen staff keep each other informed. Our menu changes daily, so a key staff member will have responsibility for overseeing allergen enquiries on each shift, and directing them to the chef immediately, with a reference folder as a back-up."

Tick box charts

Karen Errington, co-owner, the Rat Inn, Anick, Northumberland says:"We are acutely aware of the importance of providing accurate allergen information. I have coeliac disease and the Rat has become well known for its extensive gluten-free menu. As we offer a daily-changing blackboard menu, our focus will be to continue with ongoing staff training, rather than using printed menu symbols, to enable customers to be advised personally with regard to potential allergens.

"We plan to compile a back-of-house document in the form of a chart, listing the dishes with tick-boxes denoting presence of any particular allergen, with new dishes added as necessary. Staff will be trained to read this daily as part of our opening procedure and refer to it in response to queries."

Reference file

Charlie McVeigh, managing director of six-site London bar group the Draft House, says: "We’re not putting anything extra on the menu. We will be adhering to regulations by having a note on file that will be available for customers to view if they have concerns about any possible allergens in the food."

Alternative approach

Tim Blake, owner of Benson Blakes in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, says: "We will be running an alternate menu. We don’t want a billion and one things written on the normal menu and the information has to either be on the menu or verbally given. So we will have a separate allergens menu that will be readily available to our customers."

Special menus

Amanda Baker, co-owner of the Jolly Cricketers, Seer Green, Buckinghamshire, says:  "At the moment we have a gluten free, nut free and dairy free menu that we’ve found very useful and that the staff are trained on. We’ve had the gluten free menu since we took over in 2008 and introduced a nut and dairy free one in 2012 when we found more and more customers had special dietary requirements. On the bottom of our normal menu it says to speak to a member of staff if you have any special dietary requirements too. So we will probably do the same and just add the other requirements needed onto our gluten, dairy and nut free menu."

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Digital makes things simple

Posted by Drew,

Following on from this, a few pubs have turned to digital signage to share the menu allergy information with their customers. The PMA recently covered a story where the pub in West Sussex update their daily excel spreadsheets, upload them to their digital signage software et voila, all the screens update with all the relevant information instantly including the allergy info. The staff know exactly where to send their customers for the information and they save precious time printing / hand writing everyday... The article on PMA:

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Useful aid?

Posted by James Taylor,

I added the below comment on another post relating to allergens. It is also relevant here: -

This might be of use to fellow readers...I came across an online data source called Erudus the web address is

You can search for a food item (or multiple items) and it returns all the allergen information and nutritional breakdown for the product. Its quite clever really and states theres more than 15,000 foodservice product lines listed. Might be helpful, so thought I'd share it.

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