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With recent prosecutions carried out by Portsmouth City Council Environmental Health Department, food labelling in regard to allergens have suddenly becoming a hot topic within the catering industry. The prosecutions specifically related to gluten free labelling, when customers have not received appropriate information on the items they ordered, even when they have informed the establishment of their food allergies.
On the 15 May, 2013 Jamie’s Italian at Gunwharf Quays, were fined £8,000 plus costs of £9,000 at Fareham Magistrates Court on the 15 May 2013, the restaurant pleaded guilty to selling food not of the nature, substance or quality demanded by a purchaser. The offence which is a breach of the Food Safety Act 1990 arose due to a mis-communication between the customer and the server.
The restaurant provided a coeliac customer with gluten containing pasta when she had informed them on at least three occasions that she suffered from coeliac disease. The mis-communication occurred when the customer stated she was both Coeliac and vegetarian, the server misunderstood and only ordered a vegetarian meal. The restaurant have now implemented and improved on their previous procedures, including a hand held POS system which they have installed in many of their restaurants, the system which highlights the allergen customer from the start of the customer journey sends an alert to the kitchen to inform them of the specific requirement requested.
On the 18 June a local Portsmouth restaurant was also prosecuted before Portsmouth Magistrates for serving ice cream which contained gluten, although the menu had stated that all ice creams were gluten free. To be fair to the establishment, the product served had been offered to the restaurant by their supplier as a sample product to try out a new flavour, again the error occurred through mis-communication from the kitchen to the server. The restaurant was given a 3 months conditional discharge for the offence after mitigation was put forward by their defence.
A report in 2011 by Brighton & Sussex Medical school, ‘Restaurant staff’s knowledge of anaphylaxis and dietary care of people with food allergies’ states “All restaurant staff need to receive food allergy training as the strength of the chain is only as great as its weakest link. The waiters and servers are in direct communication with customers and they must be relied upon to ascertain the customer’s needs. But even if this is done effectively, poor communication between front of house and kitchen staff may contribute to a meal being served which is not safe for the customer.”
5 Tips on Serving the Food Allergen Customer
- When asked for ingredient details in specific dishes DO NOT guess, always check with a responsible person in the kitchen.
- If the kitchen is NOT sure of the contents tell the customer to enable them to make an informed decision.
- Always write down the order either on an order pad or electronically to ensure the detail is communicated correctly.
- Always repeat back to the customer their order to ensure they know you have understood their requirements.
- Before serving the customer their meal check the plate against the written order and ensure nothing has been added! e.g. dressings on salad.