Food allergen seminars make strong impact on businesses

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Food businesses have given a very positive response to the recent series of seminars held by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council to raise awareness of food allergens.

Environmental Health officers delivered the important series of presentations at venues in Armagh, Craigavon and Banbridge. In total, 181 people from 116 businesses attended the events held in November.

Attendees were given an insight into the procedures needed to identify and manage  allergenic ingredients and the need for effective communication about allergens to both the consumers and staff members. Businesses were also advised of their legal requirements and how to manage the risks.

Food allergens can be a significant hazard to those sensitive to them, whether present in the food as a deliberate ingredient or through cross contamination.

Since the introduction of the Food Information Regulations in 2014, there has been a number of incidents and recalls due to the absence of or incomplete/incorrect allergen information.

In addition to the presentation, information leaflets were provided at the seminars and a help-desk was in place for further queries from businesses.

John Whyte, who is the head chef at Armagh City Hotel, stressed the importance of the seminars.

“The seminars point to due diligence when it comes to cooking, information on your menus, also training of your chefs and your staff and just being aware of the allergens that go into your cooking,” he said.

“It’s very important to keep up to date. I try to come to the seminar every time that it is on, just to be aware of changes to the laws.

“It there are businesses out there that haven’t booked into the training seminars… if things go wrong, which they sometimes do, you can be prosecuted. Or you could seriously damage somebody’s health, or unfortunately someone could die.”

One woman who contacted the council after attending the seminar, said the presentation – which featured a family bereaved through a fatal food allergen reaction -had made a strong impression.

“It really moved me, and it definitely worked, as I was speaking to a few of the businesses afterwards and they felt the same as I did. It re-iterated the need for control,” she said.

For information on food allergens and food safety please visit the council’s dedicated Food Allergens webpage.