It’s Allergy Awareness Week (20 -26 April 2015) when the spotlight shines on a topic that could rival politics for dividing opinion – at least between Norfolk caterers and the public.

When new EU rules regarding allergen labelling were introduced in December over 100 top chefs wrote to the Daily Telegraph warning that it would do significant damage to the catering industry – a viewpoint which, however, met with little sympathy from those readers who commented.

But as one caterer pointed out – put aside the extra work involved in drawing up allergen information on menu items (we’re talking  14 allergens here) – the issue really is on whether, as caterers, we are able to assure customers that dishes are 100% safe, bearing in mind we use most of the allergens in our kitchens.  How do we ensure all traces have been eliminated from equipment, utensils – and indeed the atmosphere?

In today’s litigious times which caterer is genuinely able to say hand on heart that a product is allergen free?  If a customer with a severe allergy can’t even fly on a plane where nuts are served what chance do we Norfolk caterers have?

ALLERGIES ON THE INCREASE

According to Allergy UK an estimated 21 million adults in the UK suffer from at least one allergy – a figure that’s rising by 5% annually.  In fact the UK is one of the top three countries in the world for highest incidence of allergy, with 10% of under 45s having two or more allergies.

Of course as established Norfolk caterers we do our utmost to cater for all our customers – we too have friends and family with acute conditions – but it’s interesting to note how different customer groups fare for allergies and intolerances…

DIY DIAGNOSES

Of course there’s a significant difference between an allergy and an intolerance and, when it comes to gluten in particular, Daily Telegraph writer Daisy Dunn had to admit “I can’t help but feel that my diet-obsessed friends are partly to blame for this lack of understanding.”

Dr Adrian Morris, an allergy consultant at London Medical Centre agrees: “a huge percentage of the population are now self-diagnosed coeliac.  There is an epidemic of gluten ‘intolerance’ that is sweeping through the nation.  Going gluten-free is very popular and is fed by the media.”

In fact a YouGov survey highlighted that nearly a third of households contain someone who has a food allergy or intolerance – the majority being self-diagnosed.

And when it comes to the purchase of ‘free from’ foods 55% of purchasers don’t suffer from, or live with anyone who suffers from an allergy or an intolerance.   While 22% said they felt it was a healthier option, 13% felt it was the right thing to do ethically and 11% thought it would help them lose weight.

I’m sure we can speak for lots of caterers – in Norfolk and beyond – when we say we take food allergies and intolerances extremely seriously.  None of us wants to risk our livelihood or reputation when it comes to food safety, but please understand we don’t have the luxury of separate allergen free kitchens.

And if it’s just a passing fad then please remember that there are other ways to differentiate yourself in life than through the things you expect others to do for you.  Norfolk caterers will thank you.

Well-established and highly recommended Norfolk caterers, Expresso’s clients range from international corporate leaders through to high profile organisations and discerning families.

https://www.allergyuk.org/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/11460125/Top-chefs-attack-EU-rules-on-allergens-in-food.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/11532208/Yes-Ive-got-a-food-allergy.-Now-stop-rolling-your-eyes-at-me.html