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Top tags: one voice  UKHospitality  Food Hygiene  Shaping the Future 

Allergy Safety

Posted By Dr Lisa Ackerley, Food Safety Adviser, UKHospitality, 28 September 2018
Please note this blog was written prior to the tragic incident of a fatal allergy incident, covered widely in the media. In light of that incident, UKH felt it important to proceed in posting this blog, to help raise awareness of the issues around the confusion that can occur with allergy labelling.

 

Allergies are on the rise in the UK according to a report by Foods Matter, ‘a staggering 44% of British adults now suffer from at least one allergy and the number of sufferers is on the rise, growing by around 2 million between 2008 and 2009 alone’. Whatever the reason may be, allergens are on the menu.

 

Food and drinks establishments will have collated their allergen information to give to guests who need to know. However, whilst businesses understand the legal requirements of allergy labelling, the average Joe may not. For example, current food labelling regulations allow businesses which produce food on site to provide reduced labelling even of wrapped foods, which is very different to factory-made products. Crucially the list of ingredients on these food items may not be given, unlike a pre-packed product which would have allergens highlighted. Absence of allergens on a food label could potentially lead to customers making assumptions that there are no allergens in the food. Furthermore, they may not be encouraged to ask about allergens because they may mistakenly believe there are none.

In allergy world, the most vulnerable groups are young adults. When allergic children grow up and leave home, that is when they are at their most vulnerable too. It is possible to assume that all their lives, they have been protected by parents who have made sure they don’t get exposed to a potentially fatal allergen; when they go to school, the school dinner servers know all about them – there is even a picture of them behind the counter. When they go out to eat, their parents ask the embarrassing question about what is in the food. Their friends are aware – it’s been part of life.

Then, off they go to University, meet new friends, and they are on their own with their allergy. Perhaps they are sick of being the allergic person in the group. Rather than risk being the odd one out, they try to navigate the menu without asking, hoping for the best. Rather than take their adrenaline pen in a handbag or pocket which is just not cool, they go out with just their mobile and £20 tucked behind the case. They also may not have told their new friends about their condition because that is also not cool. 

Easy to ask 

This is the time of year when young allergic adults are most vulnerable and the Food Standards Agency “#Easytoask” campaign is raising awareness of the need for allergic people to ask food servers about allergens and not take unnecessary risk. But how can the hospitality industry play its part?

 

Where you have the opportunity always ask in a nice friendly way – does anyone here have any foods they need to avoid? Open a two-way dialogue and get them talking. Some people are allergic to foods other than those on the legal list of 14. That’s why talking is so important - it could save lives.

If you serve wrapped foods, for example in a canteen cold display, consider that your customers may not be aware of the difference between your sandwich and one from a major retailer and could be expecting to see full allergen information on that pack. A line inviting people to ask about allergens on the packaging could help to prevent confusion.

If in doubt always refer to your allergen documentation, make this information available to customers or consider having an allergy champion on site at all times.

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Allergens – not just a matter of ingredients declaration

Posted By Dr Lisa Ackerley, Food Safety Adviser, UKHospitality, 17 August 2018

I have just read a  report of a test purchase of a dish in restaurant being made by Enforcement Officers to determine whether a meal actually contained peanuts following a request for the meal to not contain peanuts. This request is different to one that asks for information about ingredients in a dish, because the tests will be for contamination from allergens, which could be in very small quantities.

For some people, even the slightest trace of an allergen can cause the life-threatening illness of anaphylactic shock. Therefore it is important that businesses serving food are aware that if a customer asks for a meal to be free of a particular allergen – rather than simply asking about the ingredients in a menu item – that your team then takes care to convey exactly this message to back of house staff, to ensure that not only does the meal not contain the allergen as an ingredient, but also that all possible measures have been taken to ensure that there is no contamination. This means that not only do your back of house team need to prepare food with utmost care, but you will need to ensure you have clarification from your suppliers on items where they have declared that the food product was made in a factory preparing allergenic ingredients, or that it “may contain” an allergen – get it wrong and this could result in traces of allergen appearing in your foods.

If asked, and you have replied that a food is free of an allergen, and it is subsequently found to have contamination from the allergen, an offence could have been committed because the food is not what it says it is. This is particularly difficult as businesses have to rely on the accuracy of information from their suppliers. To be sure, ensure that you have had a conversation with your supplier in advance if they have a “may contain” or any other disclaimer. You may need to assume if it says “may contain” that it actually does contain the allergen. Or you can discuss this with your guests and let them make the decision based on the information you have provided.  If in any doubt that you can provide an allergen-free meal, it is better to say you cannot provide the meal, rather than risk causing illness or being prosecuted. It is not an offence to say that you cannot be sure and do not want to serve someone. I know that no-one wants to turn away business, but better that, than the consequences of inadvertently serving up an allergen to an allergic customer or enforcement officer.

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Food Hygiene Ratings: don’t underestimate them

Posted By Dr Lisa Ackerley, Food Safety Adviser, UK Hospitality, 10 August 2018

 

Good food hygiene is essential to any food business. It not only ensures that the food served is safe to eat, but it also helps with customer confidence and can be a great way to promote a business.

Food Hygiene Ratings are given by Enforcement Officers following a food hygiene inspection. The business will be assessed on the basis of:

  • hygiene of the premises, including cleanliness and pest control
  • hygiene practices and
  • “confidence in management.”

Recently a business owner got into very deep water when they were awarded a Food Hygiene Rating of One (the range is from the lowest, 0 to the highest, 5), and then on a later inspection, they received a Zero. Instead of taking this as a good hint to improve his hygiene he apparently advertised his restaurant on the basis that he had a 5 rating. He ended up with a fine of over £3000 for the business, over £1000 personally and costs of over £4000; the business subsequently went into receivership. But the story didn’t end there: the owner was then banned from running or being involved in any business for 5 years.

This bears as a stark reminder just how serious food hygiene ratings are. For any business that sells or serves food achieving a good food hygiene rating should be a top priority, and they should never try to pretend that their real rating is higher than the one given by the Environmental Health Department. In any case consumers can always check online what score a premise has received via the FSA website, ratings.food.gov.uk. In Wales and Northern Ireland, where there is mandatory display of the rating sticker, action has been taken where businesses have refused to display.

To achieve a good Food Hygiene Rating, the business would be well advised to follow the UKHospitality Catering Industry Guide which details not only what is required for compliance with the law, but also specifies what best practice would be.

The food business operator needs to show a willingness to comply. Top issues include:

  • a documented Food Safety Management System
  • records up to date and demonstration of accuracy
  • staff are trained and can demonstrate an understanding of what needs to be done to serve safe food
  • a pest free environment
  • no risk of cross-contamination
  • clean and well-maintained premises

The scheme was developed to encourage food businesses to improve and give consumers confidence in hygiene. Most businesses would want to aim for a 5, and in many chains, it is a key performance indicator. However, if you find you have received a poor score you have some options. You can ask an independent adviser to help you out (UKH can give advice over the phone in some cases) or you can ask one of our partner organisations to come and visit to offer assistance. Alternatively, if you think you don’t deserve the score, you have the opportunity to appeal. If you understand what you need to do to put things right, after doing the work, you can apply to have a re-inspection so that you can hopefully get a better score next time.

Many local authorities make a charge for this re-inspection and this varies from one local authority to another based on a “cost recovery” basis. UKH is investigating this at the moment as the range has been reported to be from £90 to £330.

Further reading:
https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/food-hygiene-ratings-for-businesses 
https://www.thecaterer.com/articles/535016/restaurant-boss-banned-for-fake-five-star-hygiene-rating?utm_source=TheCaterer&utm_campaign=wednesday

Tags:  Food Hygiene 

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Levelling the playing field

Posted By Kate Nicholls, 13 June 2018
Updated: 08 August 2018

With news of high street closures across the country, it is all too evident that our industry is feeling the strain of the unprecedented pressures it currently faces; increasing property and employment costs, dwindling access to skilled workers, and the continued unfair disparity between bricks and mortar and digital businesses on a number of fronts.

From our seaside towns through to the sprawling metropolises, every business in our industry is abundantly aware that changes need to happen to ensure we can continue to grow and invest, if we are to continue to contribute £130bn of economic activity and £38bn in tax receipts to the UK each year.

UKHospitality is determined to achieve Government action on these issues and is fully engaged with politicians and influencers, hammering home just what the social and economic impacts of policies such as the National Living Wage, business rates and Brexit are on the third largest private sector employer in the UK. If the UK is to continue to benefit from the economic success of hospitality businesses, we need the operating environment in which to be able to thrive.

Businesses are taking responsibility and have some great initiatives in place, from apprenticeship programmes to promoting healthy eating, as well as making great efforts to satisfy the plethora of regulatory burdens placed upon our businesses. The sharing economy is growing at an exponential rate, enjoying the fruits of an under-regulated market, handing unscrupulous commercial landlords an undeserved competitive advantage, while the rest of the law-abiding accommodation providers dutifully comply with the costly regulations imposed upon them. When other sectors are free to operate under a hidden economy, losing the Treasury an unknown, but presumably vast, amount in tax revenues, it begs the question why Government is not acting faster to address this, and are just now in the process of consulting on some of these issues. We need for Government to support what is an integral part of the economy and our efforts. To secure the future of our dynamic and indispensable industry we are asking Government, not for special treatment, but for a level playing field.

It is now just under one month until industry leaders from across the many sectors within our industry will descend on the Grand Connaught Rooms in London to dissect the opportunities and challenges currently facing the industry at Shaping the Future, UKHospitality’s annual industry-wide event. If you haven’t booked your place already, I would strongly advise that you do so, so you can be a part of helping the industry stand together as one to strategise how we can better resonate with Government and achieve our goals.

It is time to stop talking about the issues and time to kick things into high gear and set the wheels of change not just in motion, but speeding toward creating a levelling the playing field for our hospitality businesses. 

Tags:  one voice  Shaping the Future  UKHospitality 

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One unified voice for the hospitality sector

Posted By Kate Nicholls, 12 February 2018
Updated: 08 August 2018

My role at the ALMR means I regularly speak to our members across the country, ranging from small, independently-run village pubs to national chains and household names, from Scotland to Cornwall, and from Anglesey to London. One thing is clear: they’re optimistic about the future of hospitality in the UK, but they feel they could contribute more to their local economy and the UK, if they had the support and opportunity to do so. The restaurants, pubs and cafés on our High Streets and in our villages, are a visible, integral and familiar part of life in the UK that contribute significantly to our everyday lives. However, these businesses are facing more political and regulatory pressures than ever before, combined with competition from online businesses which are not impacted by the same issues, such as business rates.

That’s why, on the 23rd January we announced plans to merge the ALMR and the BHA to create a strong, new trade body, UKHospitality, which could passionately champion our dynamic industry at home and abroad. The new association would deliver a vital unified voice for the hospitality sector at a time when it is needed more than ever. Merging the ALMR and the BHA would bring together over 700 businesses from all aspects of hospitality, including restaurants, hotels, leisure parks, contract caterers and many more. As the proposed CEO of the planned new trade body, I am relishing the prospect of working with members to deliver both strong and connected relationships with government and a shared ambition to reshape the future of hospitality. 

Hospitality is a fast-growing sector employing over 2.9 million people, making it the third largest private sector employer – bigger than automotive, pharmaceuticals and aerospace combined, and twice as big as financial services. Last year, it accounted for 1 in 8 of all new jobs and by 2020 a further 19,000 new jobs will have been generated. The sector also generates £38 billion in tax for the Exchequer helping to fund vital services. This is equivalent to the UK’s annual defence budget.

Careers and opportunities are at the heart of what our sector offers British society; over two thirds of our jobs are semi-skilled, and the hospitality industry offers entry-level opportunities ranging from apprenticeships through to specialist areas such as marketing, finance, design, IT and law. Many entrepreneurs, managers and Chief Executives in our industry started their careers pulling pints, serving coffee, or on graduate schemes and have worked their way up, benefitting from the exciting combination of professional training and development, and on the job, customer-facing experience. One of the priorities of UKHospitality would be to deliver an integrated careers and skills strategy for the sector.

Working with the government to secure a Brexit deal that delivers for our current and future workforce needs, as well as delivering an ambitious and dynamic tourism sector deal that supports growth, would be clear signs of success for the organisation. As a first step, we are calling for a dedicated Minister to champion the industry at home and abroad, which we see as crucial in securing the right deal for the sector.

The members of the ALMR and the BHA will vote on the proposed merger on 21 February, and we are keen to see members of both organisations make their views heard by voting. You can read the full announcement here: http://www.almr.org.uk/merger-creates-powerful-new-voice-uks-130bn-hospitality-sector/ 

Tags:  one voice  UKHospitality 

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