A new accreditation scheme has been launched that will allow bars, pubs and restaurants to promote themselves as catering for people with food allergies.
The Allergy Aware Scheme from national charity Allergy UK will demonstrate that, on top of legal requirements, staff provide exceptional service for the estimated two million people in the UK with food allergies and intolerances.
The scheme comprises detailed expert food allergy training and audit. All outlets are required to sign an Allergy Aware Scheme Charter to ensure best practice and compliance. Interested businesses can join the scheme initially for a 12-month period and will be subject to renewal on an annual basis.
Allergy UK is working with dedicated training provider Allergy Aware Kitchen to deliver the training to caterers.
Successfully accredited venues will receive a premium listing on Can I Eat There?, an online directory for people with allergies and coeliac disease – intolerance to gluten. Users can search by location, cuisine or allergy rating, then filter the menu by allergen to see what they can eat.
Customers can also read and leave reviews. The website highlights restaurants, pubs and bars which are part of the Allergy Aware Scheme, guiding them to the most allergy-friendly establishments.
Around 4,800 hospital admissions a year are due to allergic reactions to food, with admissions for the severe reaction of anaphylaxis increasing by 615% in the past 20 years. It means that 92% of those with severe allergies worry about eating out.
The EU Food Information Regulations introduced in December state that all bars, pubs, restaurants and other catering outlets must now be able to provide information on which of the top 14 allergens including egg, nuts and milk are present in every dish and drink served.
Allergy UK’s chief executive Carla Jones said: “Severe food allergy is a potentially life-threatening condition. Those with a food allergy know only too well the risk posed when eating out and frequently choose not to.
“The Allergy Aware Scheme aims to help caterers seize the opportunity to deliver a ‘gold standard’ service to a section of the community that, until now, has been very much excluded.
“We will provide recognition to businesses that don’t only take allergies seriously, but that are going above and beyond legislation, to deliver an exceptional service for the allergic community.”
Catering outlets already signed up to the Allergy Aware Scheme include London’s Rainforest Cafe and Nibsy’s Gluten Free Coffee Shop in Reading.
Simon Yandell, sales and marketing manager at Rainforest Café, said: “We are proud to be the first restaurant in the UK to be part of the Allergy Aware Scheme. Having experienced first hand the effects of an allergic reaction on our premises many years ago, it is of paramount importance that we give detailed advice and options that our customers can have full confidence in.
“Not only do we cater for a range of allergies, but our staff are fully trained in allergy awareness. Having reached this level of commitment, we are delighted that Allergy UK has introduced a kite mark for restaurants.”
Naomi Stoker, the owner of Nibsy’s, said: “Joining the Allergy Aware Scheme was an easy decision to make. Everything at Nibsy’s is entirely gluten-free, and for us it’s important to ensure that customers with other food allergies or diet requirements can trust that they are in safe hands.
“When living with food allergies, snacking or eating out can be challenging, but I think the Allergy Aware Scheme will help customers to identify the places that understand and hopefully cater for their needs.”
Eden Foodservice and Autograph – both part of Interserve – are the first foodservice companies to join the scheme.
Martin Blake, development chef at Autograph, said: “The accreditation will provide external verification that our company policies and procedures are not only compliant, but operating a gold standard approach to the Food Information Regulations. We are looking forward to working towards achieving the accreditation across nine Autograph sites.”