Free from worry – Raising awareness of special dietary needs

It’s estimated that 21 million people in the UK live with allergic disease, and one in 100 people have coeliac disease.

With so many people affected, it’s important to raise awareness, and caterers are being urged to review their menus and practices.

Allergy Awareness Week takes place later this month (April 29 – May 5) whilst Coeliac UK’s Awareness Week will be held from May 9-15, offering the perfect opportunity for caterers to communicate their FreeFrom offering to customers.

48% of UK consumers say that they, or someone in their household, avoid at least one food/ingredient – although only 20% do so due to an allergy or intolerance

It is estimated that between 1-10% of adults and children have a food hypersensitivity. However as many as 20% of the population experience some reactions to foods which make them believe they do have a food hypersensitivity – The Association of UK Dietitians (BDA), 2015

The UK FreeFrom market was valued at £837m in 2018 growing bt 133% since 2013.

Emily Hampton , head of food policy at Coeliac UK, said: “Our awareness week is a good opportunity for caterers to promote their gluten-free offering. Very often it is the person with coeliac disease who decides where to eat out, so it’s important to remember that you’re not just selling one gluten-free meal, but you’re selling to their whole family or group of friends.”

The advent of the awareness week also offers a good reason for caterers to review their gluten-free menus, and tweak recipes so that they appeal to gluten-free and non gluten-free diners alike.

“There are a lot of gluten-free products available now so it’s really easy to adapt menus so that they appeal to everyone,” continues Emily. “Simple swaps like substituting flour and oats for gluten-free flour and oats means your traditional fruit crumble can be enjoyed by everyone.”

For advice specific to caterers, visit www.coeliac .org.uk/food-industry-professionals/caterers -and-restaurateurs/

Coeliac UK offers GF accreditation to organisations that want to highlight they can safely cater for gluten-free.

Over 3,000 venues already accredited and their GF symbol is recognised and trusted by those requiring a gluten-free diet. For more information, visit www.coeliac.org.uk/food-industryprofessionals/caterers-andrestaurateurs/accrediting-yourbusiness/.

An interactive online catering training module is also available for chefs, managers and restaurant owners, covering all aspects of what’s needed to prepare and serve safe gluten-free food. The training takes about an hour and a half to complete but you don’t have to complete it in one session.

Allergy UK runs an Allergy Aware Scheme for catering outlets to demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding those with food allergy.

The scheme helps provide consumers with confidence when eating out at food establishments that are recognised by Allergy UK. The audit assesses catering outlets on their staff training, suppliers, purchase and delivery of orders, storage of goods, handling and preparation as well as order taking and front of house.

Successful outlets will be listed on Allergy UK’s Restaurant and Café Guide.

For more information, visit www.allergyuk.org/information –and-advice/for-caterers