Allergen Breaches Can Have Big Repercussions

Whilst many of us may wish for 15 minutes of fame, an Argyll-based hotel has secured its moment in the spotlight by preparing to serve midge burgers, making use of an abundance of wee insects that it can easily remove from its extermination machines.

Midge-coated burgers are being touted as a potentially protein-rich ‘gourmet burger’, but if you are not convinced this is a healthy-eating option, rest assured that environmental health experts will be testing this unusual ingredient before it makes it on to the menu. What we can say in response to this story is that it is a classic example of how hospitality providers are innovating, in an attempt to compete in their market, using the power of the media to generate awareness. Most are not going to such drastic lengths, but many are recognising how differentiated dishes could tickle the taste buds of potential customers who are continually on the lookout for something new on their plate. This insatiable desire to eat out and explore world foods is fuelling growth in the sector. Over the last five years, hospitality businesses have recorded a turnover growth of around 6% per annum. With innovation, however, comes increased risk when it comes to food safety and allergens. EU FIC Food Information for Consumers Regulation, obliges food businesses to provide guidance to diners with regard to 14 different allergens, making any customer who advises them of an allergy aware of risks within certain dishes on the menu. When menus are being created, it is relatively easy to consider allergens and their presence in foods, but when recipe adaptation is required, because of a lack of an ingredient, or in a quest to be innovative, it becomes far easier to forget to advise front-of-house staff. Under the terms of the Food Safety Act 1990 adding an ‘article or substance’ to food can lead to prosecution. Just two years ago, an Indian restaurant owner was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence, having not informed a customer with nut allergy of a nut powder used for a particular dish. The customer died, as a result. Now that we have unlimited fines based on turnover in cases like this, due to new sentencing guidelines, it is very easy for hospitality businesses to cross the line and face financial ruin. Added to this, custodial sentences can be handed out to negligent business owners. For now, we are in the dark as to whether midge burgers present any dangers, but all hospitality businesses innovating with their menus would be well-advised to take a good look at allergy safety and their compliance with food safety law. If you require guidance on such compliance, please contact us Or visit our Commercial Sector for details  

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