Food Allergy key facts and FAQ’s

Below are various key points, actions on and Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. What should you not do if someone with a food allergy asks you whether a dish contains a certain food?

You must never guess the answer. Find out the information the customer wants and let them decide if they can eat the food. Don’t claim a dish is free from a particular food, unless you have taken steps to check this is correct

  1. What foods cause allergic reactions?
  • cereals containing gluten, these are wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt and kamut
  • crustaceans, such as crabs, lobsters and prawns
  • eggs
  • fish
  • peanuts (also called groundnuts)
  • soya beans (sometimes called soya)
  • milk
  • nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, pecans, pistachio nuts, macadamia nuts and Queensland nuts
  • celery (including celeriac)
  • mustard
  • sesame seeds
  • sulphur dioxide and sulphites at concentrations of more than 10mg/kg or 10mg/litre expressed as SO2
  • lupin
  • molluscs
  1. Information on any of the 14 allergens used as ingredients will need to be provided for foods sold without packaging or wrapped on property. How must this be provided?

Clear signposting to where this information can be obtained. This can be written on a chalk board or chart, or provided by a trained member of staff by referring to the most senior Chef on duty and the allergen compilation chart.

  1. How do I know whether a certain food is in one of our dishes?

If you make a dish from scratch, you will know what goes into it. But remember that you will need to think about each of the ingredients you use and what they contain. You also need to consider what you use:

  • to cook the dish
  • to thicken a sauce
  • as a topping or garnish
  • in a salad dressing
  1. Why is it very important to check the ingredients of anything you buy that is ready-made, such as desserts, pies, bread, sausages and sauces?

Don’t rely on what you think is in these products, because foods that can cause severe allergic reactions can turn up in products where you might not expect them. For example:

  • peanuts or nuts can be used in pesto
  • unrefined nut oils can be used in salad dressings
  • cakes and desserts can contain marzipan or frangipane (both made from almonds) or praline (made from hazelnuts as well as eggs, milk and wheat containing gluten)
  • sauces can contain milk or flour containing gluten
  • cheesecake bases can contain nuts to make them crunchier
  • some Indian dishes can be thickened with ground almonds or peanut flour
  • some Greek and Turkish dishes, such as humus, can contain tahini (made from sesame seeds)
  • soya bean flour can be in many food products, such as burgers, sausages, cakes, pastries and biscuits
  • soya bean is used in some vegetarian products such as vegetarian mince
  • tofu (which is made from soya bean) is often used in Chinese dishes
  • mustard is often used in dressings
  1. What must you be aware of when conducting ordering  and storage?
  • Keep ingredients in the original containers, where possible, or keep a copy of the labelling information.
  • Check deliveries to make sure what is delivered is what you ordered.
  • Check that the food delivered is the same brand you normally use. Different brands might have different ingredients.
  • Look to see if your supplier has given information about any changes in the ingredients of the foods delivered.
  • Always store foods separately in closed containers, especially peanuts, nuts, seeds, milk powder and flour.
  1. What you must do on Menus?
  • If a dish contains one of the 14 foods that can cause severe allergic reactions, make sure you mention it in the name of the dish or the description on the menu, e.g. ‘strawberry mousse with almond shortbread’. Remember to update the menu when recipes change.
  • If you use unrefined nut or seed oils (also called cold-pressed or crude) in cooking or in dressings, say this on the menu.
  1. What you must do when you have been asked to prepare a meal that doesn’t contain a certain food?
  • Make sure worktops and all the equipment to be used is thoroughly cleaned with hot water and sanitized before use. This includes chopping boards, knives, food mixers, bowls, pans, and utensils used for stirring and serving. This is to prevent small amounts of the food that the person is allergic to from getting into their meal.
  • Make sure that you don’t cook it in oil that has already been used to cook other foods. For example, if food is cooked in oil that has already been used to cook prawns, this could cause a reaction in someone who is allergic to shellfish.
  • Make sure staff wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before they prepare the meal, and avoid touching other foods until they have finished preparing it
  1. What you must do when serving customers?
  • Encourage customers to ask about whether the food they are allergic to is used in the dishes they want to order.
  • Make sure that staff understand they should never guess whether an ingredient is in a dish or not. They should check with the kitchen staff every time someone asks for a meal that doesn’t contain a certain food. Notify also, the duty manager/senior chef and write the information down.
  • Make sure that if staff are not sure whether a dish contains a particular ingredient, and they can’t check, they tell the customer they don’t know.
  • Don’t remove the food that someone is allergic to from a dish that has already been prepared, for example don’t remove the nut decoration from a gateau. There could still be small amounts of the food in the dish, and these are enough to trigger an allergic reaction.
  • Make sure that kitchen staff always tell serving staff about any recipe changes, particularly if foods that can cause severe allergic reactions are now being used in a dish.
  • When you have been asked to prepare a meal that doesn’t contain a certain food, always use separate serving utensils; ensure they have been disinfected.


10. What should you do if you think a customer is having an allergic reaction?

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if someone is having an allergic reaction. Other serious conditions can have similar symptoms. But even if you’re not sure what the problem is, if someone is finding it;

  • hard to breathe,
  • if their lips or mouth are swollen,
  • difficulty with swallowing or eating,
  • hives anywhere on the body,
  • flushing of the skin,
  • abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting,
  • sudden feeling of weakness,
  • or if they collapse:

Call 999 immediately and describe what is happening

  • state a customer has collapsed and we believe they are suffering from anaphylaxis
  • give the address and postcode of the hotel
  • do not move the person, because this could make them worse.
  • send someone outside to wait for the ambulance and stay with your customer until help arrives.