Allergens in the supply chain - top tips from Trade Interchange

28/04/2017 - 14:29
With 24th – 30th April marking Allergy Awareness Week in the UK, some in the foodservice industry are struggling to manage allergen information in all elements of the food supply chain.

Mike Edmunds, co-founder and managing director of Trade Interchange, lists his top five tips for helping proprietors cope with the allergen responsibilities outlined by the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (FIC).

“For many businesses, tracking and reporting on allergens in the food supply chain is a monumental task. That said, a few simple measures can help make what can seem like an administrative minefield a lot more palatable for all involved…

Allergens are everywhere

“An estimated 1-2% of UK adults and 5-8% of children are living with a food allergy. This equates to around two million people being affected, and that doesn’t even include those with food intolerances.

“Since 2014 businesses have been required to create accurate and up to date allergen information about their products, declaring the presence of any substances or products derived from the Annex II list.

“Not all allergens are instantly recognisable, especially to front of house staff not directly involved in food preparation. What’s more, even beverages contain gluten, sulphites or occasionally egg and milk. This means operators need to consider compliance regulations carefully.

“Putting the onus on a supplier to provide you with the information required, such as their allergen policies, is a particularly effective way of tackling the issue as it means that data is gathered straight from the source.

Think outside your kitchen

“For many pubs, hotels and restaurants, handling internal procedures is a relatively straightforward process which helps ensure allergen controls are managed. However, it is also important for organisations to track compliance within their supply chains. This means a raft of information needs to be collected, organised, continuously updated and communicated across the business.

“We specialise in supply chain risk management and have seen first-hand the impact of having to collate such details. As a result, it’s important to think carefully about how to tackle the challenges facing your business now as well as in the future.    

Use technology to combat the administrative burden 

“Ensuring customers get the correct allergen information is paramount. However, obtaining allergen policies from key suppliers is very labour intensive and can be a huge drain on resources. The increasing scope and complexity of the information required, such as allergen control plans, cleaning programmes and protocols, allergenic product records and allergen employee training can leave businesses feeling overwhelmed.

“To date, there are several procedures used for recording and updating this information, all of which have varying degrees of efficiency. For example, paper or spreadsheet-based methods can be notoriously difficult and time consuming to manage. Independent research conducted on behalf of Trade Interchange shows that 60% of foodservice operators surveyed use manual systems to manage supplier information. With this in mind, an increasing number of professional caterers, restaurants and eateries, are investing in central data monitoring solutions, such as Supplier Information Management software (SIM).

“These systems are specifically designed to improve the way supplier-related risks are managed. Online SIM software enables suppliers to upload key information that operators require, such as allergen policies, and provide them with all the necessary compliance data instantly. By using specialist technology, such as our ARCUS® SIM software, automated email alerts and reminder prompts can be set up. This means suppliers can update information in line with the user’s requirements, and helps to ensure foodservice and hospitality businesses have accurate supply chain databases.

Maintenance not monotony

“Not only is it vital for information to be up-to-date, it’s also important any supplier database is easy to maintain, so it doesn’t become outdated or neglected. Investing in comprehensive digital systems allows businesses to store all supplier information online, and access it centrally, quickly and easily, making managing allergen information a lot more effective.

“In addition to maintaining databases, SIM can help users decide which suppliers to work with. Collecting allergen policies before working with a supplier can give businesses the confidence that they have done the correct due diligence, but can be incredibly time consuming if done manually. Developments in supplier management software allows users to make better informed decisions on who to stock by having all this information available.

Brand Reputation

Recent research found that 68% of foodservice operators still feel exposed within their supply chain to non-compliance with allergen legislation. Demonstrating visibility over supply chains is a key part of customer confidence and companies are well advised to put processes in place to avoid damaging reputational hits.

“The landscape of allergen compliance can be complex. However, innovations in technology can allow catering professionals to have visibility of the entire supply chain in a cost and time effective manner.”

For Further details on Trade Interchange’s SIM software and the ARCUS platform visit www.tradeinterchange.com or call 033 3320 9933.

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