Allergens at LEON: An update
Since we wrote to you about allergens in October 2018, we have been continuing to improve our processes and the way we communicate allergens.
We are writing to you now to update you on what we have been doing to:
1. Make our restaurants as safe as possible, and
2. Communicate the risks that remain.
The biggest change we have introduced – one you may have noticed if you have visited us recently – is that we have started asking guests if they have an allergy when we take their order. All of our team members also have this question printed on a badge pinned to their aprons. In addition we have new signs on our counters making people aware that we handle all allergens in our kitchens.
We have introduced these processes so that when a guest tells us they have an allergy, we can guide the guest to our ‘Foodie Fact Sheet’, a document with full nutritional and ingredient information for every dish, and detail on the processes we have in place to minimise cross-contamination. We have always kept this document in our restaurants but we hope that the extra prompt of asking the question will mean all guests with allergies will find this information easily, and we can communicate the risks that always remain when working in a fresh kitchen. If you want to read this information yourself, you can find the Foodie Fact Sheet on our website here.
That is not all we’re doing. We are taking actions like these:
Working with other companies
We do not believe that food safety should be a competitive advantage. Maximum co-ordination is required across everyone who works in this industry. We have been working with other foodservice brands to discuss industry challenges and understand where greater consistency in communication is required. We believe that if everyone collaborates and openly shares their practices, we can all make improvements in our communication and our processes. We and other members of this group will continue to keep you updated on progress we make.
We have been reviewing the ingredients we use in our kitchens to understand where we can remove allergens.
Since we last wrote to you, we have removed sesame oil from our slaw dressing. We have also removed sesame seeds from our burger buns, and are working to guarantee there is no cross-contamination risk of sesame at the bakery where we make those buns.
We are also developing a new vegan version of our garlic aioli that we think is so good, it will replace the version currently made with dairy.
Working with Allergy Spokespeople
In January 2019 we published a statement from John Vincent, our CEO. It explained what we do to keep make our processes as safe as we can, as well as reminding people that, despite this, we can never guarantee 100% segregation.
The statement created a lot of debate, with many people supporting the openness of the communication. Others, especially those who live with severe allergies, were concerned about whether this meant we were in some way relaxing our high standards on allergens.
We wanted to understand these concerns in greater detail and met with allergy spokespeople to learn how we could make our communication clear and easy to understand. We will continue to do this and welcome any feedback you have on our approach to allergen management and communication.
Foodie Fact Sheet
We used this feedback to make our Foodie Fact Sheet more accessible for guests looking for information about the ingredients a dish contains, or its full nutritional breakdown. We have now included details on the processes we have in place to avoid cross-contamination, indicated where a dish ‘may contain’ a certain allergen – based on whether our supplier handles other ingredients in their kitchens – and added an FAQ page to help answer some of the questions we have received.
This guide is available in our restaurants and online.
Menu Boards and Allergen Signs
In 2011, the EU published legislation that formalised a list of 14 major allergens. These allergens were split into three tiers. Allergens in Tier one were those that could cause a serious or even fatal reaction for an appreciable number of people, and included sesame and peanuts. Tier two allergens can still cause a serious reaction, albeit in a smaller number of people. Allergens in Tier three least frequently cause a serious reaction, though all allergens, including some not listed by the EU, can be fatal to a small number of people.
In 2014 it became mandatory for everyone in the foodservice industry, from restaurants to supermarkets, to have information about their dishes and what allergens they contained. This has to be available upon request.
Since we started LEON in 2004, our menu boards have always shown whether a dish was made with dairy, if it was free from wheat or gluten, and if it was suitable for vegetarians. Then, in 2017, we updated our menu boards to show additional principle allergens including sesame, nuts and peanuts.
We updated these again in November 2018 to show which of the EU’s 14 major allergens every dish contains. This information is also available on our cake cards and paper menus. We have also increased the visibility of allergen signs in our restaurants, reminding guests that we handle major allergens in our kitchens and can never guarantee 100% segregation.
Other in-restaurant communication
In addition to the communication noted above, we have printed a statement that outlines our approach to allergen management and communication (‘Allergens at Leon’). This incorporates feedback we have received from our restaurants, guests and allergy spokespeople.
We give this to guests when they explain they have an allergen. You can find a digital version of this in-restaurant communication online, as well as in our Foodie Fact Sheet.
Our website has always provided a full ingredient list for all of our dishes with the allergens marked in bold. We’ve now uploaded our Foodie Fact Sheet to the website so you have all of the information in one place, though we would always ask that you double-check in our restaurants before ordering. This is because we do update our recipes from time to time, and while our online Foodie Fact Sheet is always kept up to date, it is prudent to ask in restaurant in case an ingredient has changed since you last looked at it.
Please do share all and any thoughts, observations or suggestions to email@example.com.
We will continue to communicate openly with anyone who would like to contribute to this critical subject. We will also continue to communicate what we are doing to make our restaurants as safe as we can, and that despite all these measures some risks will always remain.
John and everyone at LEON