Venners introduces Allergen Procedure Audit to support hospitality operators manage a safe environment in a sector where current compliance levels average below 75%
Venners has added an Allergen Procedure Audit to the services it offers to the licensed trade in response to regular failings identified that could have fatal consequences. Early illustrations show that there are significant weaknesses in standards and processes, with average audit scores falling below 75%.
The audit is the latest service provided by the industry-leading supplier of stock control, auditing and advisory solutions and is centred around third party audits of a business’ allergen systems, training standards and procedures. The audits take a logical approach to detecting sites that are failing to follow proper allergen management guidelines at any stage of the food and drink service process, thereby putting their customers and business at significant risk.
“We know that larger multi-site companies, in particular, have invested heavily in training and get a lot of things right” explained Malcolm Muir, Director of Consultancy at Venners “and there are a lot of operators who get most things right. But there are an awful lot of businesses who get a lot of things wrong and some companies who don’t appear to have done anything at all about managing allergens. With the failure of some basic processes recently highlighted by tragic fatalities, hospitality operators can’t be complacent and having an independent audit gives a realistic assessment of where their business is and where changes have to be made.”
Common mistakes often happen between front and back of house, with segregation of preparation and storage areas a common problem. Nuts, for example might be correctly stored in containers, but then put on a shelf above a general food preparation area and cross contamination from busy chefs sharing chopping boards and utensils is another obvious fail. Venners Allergen Procedure Audits have found oil being filtered from fryers with oil filtration systems to save money but then mixing the gluten free fryer with the others and filtering the amalgamated – and contaminated – oil back to all the fryers.
“The risks grow exponentially within a multi-site environment” continued Muir “which is why Venners scalable solution helps ensure there are no gaps in your allergen controls. Allergen audits are the perfect way to check how much of your safety training your staff have absorbed and ensures that standards are being upheld, whatever the operational conditions, months after training has been supplied.”
“Where allergens are concerned, 100% is the only acceptable audit score but, worryingly, we haven’t been able to award this to any site that we’ve audited. In fact, the average score is 73.6% which shows just how much work the industry still has to do.”
Venners has found that a lack of training is common and that established good practice can be overlooked when staff come under pressure. One person may take an order, for example, whilst a series of different staff may wait on the table, serving the bread, bringing the starter, providing the condiments, serving the main, the dessert or handing out the drinks. Each one should be aware of any allergen information supplied, but this often isn’t shared amongst the whole team. Sometimes key staff are excluded from allergen training – night staff or receptionists who might take hotel room service orders, for example, or sales staff who book catered events.
Other common issues include not updating the allergen information when a menu is updated or accepting a replacement product in the food delivery without checking and communicating whether it has the same ingredients as the usual product. Allowing customers to serve themselves to buffet breakfast items, for example, or using self-serve ice cream scoops adds an opportunity for cross-contamination that can be difficult to control yet is allowed to continue unmonitored.
“Due to the urgent need to remedy non-compliances, Venners auditors will immediately report failures so the operator can remove the risk and stop any negative effects on customers, brand and hard-earned reputation” concluded Muir. “There must be a fully robust backup system for when an electronic POS system fails, and an independent audit assessment of a business is becoming an absolute must to ensure it is allergen compliant and a safe environment for customers and employees.”
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