We are writing this blog following the awful news about the teenage girl who died eating a baguette from a high street sandwich chain.
This has rightly re-focused everyone in the industry on the critical importance of properly communicating allergens.
The purpose of this blog is to make sure that you are aware of what we at Leon already do to communicate allergens and what we are going to do in addition.
When you order food at Leon the menu boards, which are directly in front of you, list the allergens next to to each dish. We show what are known as the ‘Tier 1’ allergens, ie those that can cause serious or even fatal reactions.
We also hang Allergen posters next to our counters. These explain the symbols you see on the menu boards and advise that our kitchens handle peanuts, nuts and sesame.
The poster also advises you to talk to a team member if you’ve any questions at all about what allergens or ingredients a dish might include, though we also include this information in full on our website.
Our web site provides a full ingredient list with the allergens in bold for every dish on our menus.
Every team member has a pack of information behind the counter with the same detailed information that is available on the website.
When news of the terrible tragedy came to light, we reviewed what we do and whether we can be even clearer on this subject, and we are going to do the following:
- Allergen Posters
- We’re going to be adding additional signs pointing to the location of allergen posters in restaurants.
- We’re also going to add a notice to every counter that has this statement: ‘All of our dishes are made in a kitchen that handles nuts, sesame and peanuts. Ask a team member for any allergen or free-from advice.’
- We are going to remove almond milk as our non-dairy milk option on our coffee counters and replace this with oat milk, which is allergen-free.
- We’re reviewing all of the stickers we use for our dishes, to see whether we can add a ‘contains:…’ to these.
It’s all of our responsibilities within the food service industry to keep everyone safe. We believe the best way to do that would be an industry-wide standard for allergen information. This needs to be simple and easy to understand. For example today a sandwich shop that makes its sandwiches in the shop does not have to provide allergy information on the packaging. But a sandwich shop that makes its sandwiches in a central ‘factory’ does have to do so. This is confusing for you, the guest.
As a fast food restaurant we operate differently, because you do not pick up our food from a shelf. You order it from menu boards where our allergy information is displayed. This is not required by law but we have always done this from when we started.
However we do think we can be even more prudent and add allergy information to the fast food dishes themselves. For example someone may buy something for a friend.
Please note well that all our kitchens use ingredients that contain nuts (for example the pesto in the Sicilian Chicken Meatballs), peanuts (in our Satay sauce) and sesame (in the hummus and the slaw dressing). Whilst we have processes to segregate ingredients, if you have a serious reaction to these allergens, the only 100% reliable safeguard is unfortunately not to dine or shop with us.
We are also proposing to our industry colleagues that all sandwich shops, restaurants and fast food brands develop an alert system to notify everyone of any accidents or issues immediately so that lessons can be learnt straight away.
If at any point you feel that our allergen information and communication isn’t clear, or you’ve got any further thoughts on this, please do get in touch.