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Catering with allergies in mind

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


If you are in the business of catering then you may already know too well the many issues that revolve around food provision and allergies. Catering for specific dietary requirements isn’t always easy, especially when you have customers or guests with an allergy that could potentially be life-threatening.The tide and mood around catering for food allergies is changing. The allergy epidemic is growing in the UK, and slowly but surely food catering business' are responding.

The 14 most common food allergiesFood reactions range from minor intolerances to, auto-immune diseases and life-threatening allergies. Although people can be allergic to any food the 14 most common food allergens are:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, prawns and crayfish)
  • Molluscs (such as mussels, whelks, oysters and snails)
  • Mustard
  • Celery
  • Wheat (and other cereals containing gluten, such as barley and rye)
  • Sesame (and other seeds)
  • Soybeans
  • Lupin (flour made from lupin seeds can be found in some bread, pastries and pasta)
  • Sulphites (sulphur dioxide)

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to these foods are varied and can range from an immediate allergy response to a delayed reaction several hours later. For those suffering severe food allergies, there's the risk of anaphylactic shock.To try and keep food-allergic diners safe there are rules and regulations in place for all food businesses, including event caterers. You can find out more about them from the Foods Standards Agency website here.

So what can you be doing?

Ask ahead

Be sure to ask for the dietary requirements of your diners well ahead of time. It’s a nice touch if you call each food-allergic guests individually to reassure them that you're taking their allergy seriously and finalise a menu that works for them. Having a food allergy can make dining out extremely stressful. Understanding this and offering reassurance about ingredients and food preparation is a gracious service that will get your business noticed.

Take up the gauntlet and celebrate difference

Lumping those with food allergies into one was once the domain of most catering companies trying to minimise work and keep costs low. For those who requested a gluten-free meal, the likelihood was that it was also dairy free, nut free and maybe even vegan. This kind of catering is lazy and discriminatory. It is up to caterers to make provisions for allergies, including creating designated kitchen areas to avoid cross-contamination. Make the most of the challenge and create an outstanding meal for all your guests including those with food allergies. There are many cookery classes out there to help teach and guide you towards allergy inclusive menus such as, Into The Blue, who are soon to be launching allergy-friendly cookery experiences.

Train your staff

Every person working for your events catering business should be trained to understand food allergies and the serious consequences of cross-contamination. Using the same knife to cut a piece of gluten-free cake after it has been used to cut a regular cake is enough to cause a reaction to someone allergic to gluten or wheat.As previously mentioned, eating out with allergies can be stressful and staff should be able to answer questions on the ingredients and preparation methods of the food you are serving to reassure diners should these questions occur.

Make the most of it

Free-from food has moved from speciality, prescription-only foods to mainstream supermarket shelves. In addition, it’s not only allergy sufferers who are turning to a free-from lifestyle. Health and well-being have become a key focus for many consumers and this has helped to boost the profile of free-from foods. More and more guests will be asking for a free-from meal as a lifestyle choice and providing exciting options on your menus will help you target even more diners.

Get some help from technology

We live in a fantastic digital age where technology is helping to make processes, such as creating 'allergen friendly' menus, easier. What better way to reassure your diners than letting them explore your menus and their allergen information in the palm of their hand? Utilising technology to improve diner safety is the way forward across all food-catering outlets, remove human error and empower your servers by giving them your allergen information and datasheets in digital format, in their pocket.

To find out more about how we can make this a reality for your catering drop us an email to or using the button below.

This post was written for Kafoodle by Annie Button and edited by Kafoodle.

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