How have you found eating out since the new food regulations came in at the end of last year? I cannot resist another little salutary tale, this time to do with the implementation of the regulations in the food service industry.

I received the following email, when the new rules were introduced, from a good friend (who does not himself work in the business but knows that I do).

“A cousin is staying with us, while working in the kitchen of a famous London restaurant that shall remain nameless.  I thought of you when he told me, that he was to undergo training on the new law about allergens and their labelling.  It was to take place one afternoon, after the restaurant closed for the day.

His employer had contracted with a specialist company that provides training services to the food industry related to safety and other legal requirements, including labelling. It shall also remain nameless. They offer training on the client’s own premises.  And provide educational materials in advance.

The first hint that all was not perfect came when I read the few pages of training documents that were sent.  They were obviously written for a shop rather than a restaurant.

On the appointed day, the training session began at 5pm.   In fact, no one from the specialist training company appeared.  The lead was taken by the head chef of the restaurant, who gave a talk, lasting 10 minutes, about allergens.  This was followed by a tick-the-box test for all the participating staff to prove that they had absorbed the necessary.  This also lasted about 10 minutes.   Everyone passed.  They were all awarded a certificate.

Then they went off to the staff Christmas party.”

This scenario – a scary one for anyone with serious allergies who was hoping that the new regulations would make all things good – will, no doubt be played out in far too many establishments across the country – indeed across Europe. However, I hasten to add that there are also very many establishments, and trainers, who take allergy extremely seriously and make huge and very successful efforts to cater, safely, for their allergic and coeliac customers. Just take a look at the judges comments on the winners of the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards to see how well some eateries can do it. And, if you need good training, take a look at some of the training groups listed on the FFEOA site.



Way back in 1987, just as I was starting work on a major history of English food, my eighteen-month-old son, Jonathan, and his father were diagnosed with dairy intolerances. Back then the alternatives for those on dairy-free diets were few and far between and pretty unappealing so, after some months of experimentation, I launched Berrydales Special Ices, soya based ices which were dairy and additive free – and tasted delicious! While manufacturing the ices I started a newsletter, The Inside Story, about food allergy and food intolerance and, by 1995, it was a quarterly magazine circulating to over 35,000 health professionals. In 2000 The Inside Story, re-named Foods Matter, became a subscription magazine and now all of that information, and much, much more, is accessible on the Foods Matter, Coeliacs Matter and Skins Matter sites and on our two freefrom food sites, FreeFromFoodsMatter and FreeFromRecipesMatter. You can follow me on twitter @FoodsMatter or email me at And, of course, you can also follow the exciting growth of freefrom food by checking out our annual FreeFrom Food Awards celebrating the best and the newest in freefrom foods!

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