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Do you have to cater for someone with an allergy?

If you work in catering or hospitality, you are probably already aware of the importance of understanding food allergies. But if you’re just cooking for guests with allergies, it might feel a little daunting. But it doesn’t have to be, with some simple precautions.

Read on for hints and tips to keep your guest safe from a dangerous allergic reaction.

In this blog, I will explain about:

· The 14 most common allergens

· How to store and prepare allergic ingredients

· How to safely serve foods containing allergenic ingredients.

The 14 most common food allergens:

Tree Nuts


Peanuts (ground nuts)







Molluscs (clams, oysters mussels, scallops, octopus, squid, cuttlefish)

Crustaceans (crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp)

Gluten (in cereals)


Sulphur Dioxide & Sulphites

When you buy anything from the shops with these ingredients in them, the law states that they should always be printed in Bold on the label. This makes it easy to identify them.

Storing and preparing allergenic ingredients.

These ingredients should always be stored separately in sealed containers, either in a fridge if it has a “use by” date or in a dry store cupboard for “best before” foods.

When preparing these ingredients at home, it is important to ensure they do not come into contact with other ingredients, particularly if your guest has a known allergy. That includes chopping boards, cloths and other utensils which should be thoroughly washed between uses.

The simplest way is, after washing your hands thoroughly, to always prepare the food for the person with an allergen first, putting it in a separate, well covered container before proceeding with the rest of the food.

Always check the labels on pre-prepared foods, even stock cubes, as you might find they contain some unexpected allergenic ingredients.

Serving foods containing allergenic ingredients.

You’ve prepared the food, and it’s all ready to serve to your guests. But remember, allergens can still get mixed in by accident. So, just to be sure, here’s how to serve food safely.

· Always check with your guest first to establish what allergy they have.

· Ensure th

e food containing allergens does not come into contact with other food!

· Always use separate dishes and utensils for serving this food to ensure there is no cross-contamination.

· Store leftovers in separate containers.

The Food Health & Hygiene Company.

I am Janet, founder of the Food Health & Hygiene Company and I have taught food Hygiene and nutrition for over 25 years, helping many people conform with legislation in the catering industry, but also helping people who cook at home understand some of the basics needed for keeping food safe.

I now have an online version of my Food Hygiene Course which is suitable for those in the catering industry and those wanting more information for home cooking, including information on allergens.

I recently wrote a Forest School Food Hygiene course, CPD accredited, for anyone cooking out of doors with little or no facilities.

Get in touch if you would like more advice on dealing with allergens or help with a bespoke food hygiene or nutrition course, by emailing me at

Janet Cousins, The Food Health & Hygiene Company March 2023

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