Eating out with a Food Allergy
The dish above may look delicious to many people but for those with food allergies and intolerances, it’s the type of dish that can bring on anxiety. How can I be sure what ingredients are in the dish? Am I confident that the chef and restaurant team understand that certain ingredients can make me very ill or indeed be life threatening? For some, “free-from diets” are a lifestyle choice but for the increasing number of people who suffer from food allergies, eating out can be a matter of life or death, or at least result in a trip to the hospital which is not how you want to end an enjoyable night out. At JPRestaurants we take these matters very seriously and have put in place a series of measures to ensure customers with food allergies and intolerances can eat at our restaurants and cafés with confidence. Whilst we have to balance the needs of the majority of customers and can’t protect against every eventuality of minor cross contamination for all allergens unless we exclude certain ingredients from our kitchens, we hope we strike the right balance.
What is important is that we are clear with the information we provide, our staff are trained and customers with food allergies are put into a position where they can make an educated choice as to whether to dine with us or order a particular dish. We understand that those with life-threatening food allergies often decide not to eat out.
Our process starts with recipe development around three months prior to our seasonal menu changes. We may decide to exclude common allergens from certain dishes so they appeal to a wider group of people. As an example we currently don’t use peanuts in any of our kitchens (they are however available in sealed packets as part of confectionery sold in Café Ubé) and we use gluten free flour in many of our batters. We also use rennet-free Italian hard cheese instead of Parmesan in dishes suitable for vegetarians. In all these cases we substitute alternatives where we are confident that it doesn’t impact the taste. We also carry out due diligence on our suppliers to ensure we have confidence in what they deliver to our kitchens.
The second part of the process is following key parts of the European regulations on allergens (which are not law in Jersey). We publish a list of all dishes available in our restaurants and provide a simple means of identifying which dishes contain any of the 14 main allergens. Examples of these can be seen here and all allergen menus are available in the FAQ section of the JPRestaurants website and Café Ubé website. The allergen menu is also available for all diners upon request at our restaurants and main menus give indications of popular dietary choices such as No Gluten Containing Ingredients (NGCI), Vegetarian (V), Vegan (VV) and Dairy Free (DF) accompanied by clear descriptions as to what these mean. We feel this avoids any confusion resulting from communication with our team.
The third part of the process is staff training. All our managers, wait staff, chefs and kitchen staff are provided with training and we stress the importance of the processes we have in place and the potential danger to customers with allergies of eating ingredients that may make them ill. This training, menu and recipe development and our processes and procedures to ensure we can provide a safe environment as well as tasty food, is one the reasons we decline customers requests to cook special dishes that are not on our menu or to bring food such as cakes to our restaurants.
All customers have the opportunity to request certain alterations to a dish (for example, removing a sauce), however, whilst modifications may seem easy to accommodate, please understand when they are declined as they may impact on the efficiency of service to others or be impossible due elements of the dish being pre-prepared. We strongly recommend that customers with severe food allergies do not request such alterations and modifications and instead choose a complete dish off our allergy menu ensuring it does not contain the relevant allergen. This advice is part of our strict policy and whilst there is always the possibility of cross-contamination, means that the risk of potential communication errors leading to contamination is further reduced.
Ultimately customers with food allergies understand that no restaurant or food supplier can offer a 100% guarantee that they will never unknowingly serve an ingredient that is not disclosed, that cross-contamination is impossible or human error can occur, but at JPRestaurants we invest considerable resources to ensure customers can be confident when they dine with us and that they have the information to enable them to make the choice whether to dine with us or choose a particular dish. Those with severe food allergies always travel with their medication close at hand and it’s important that you check with your server and look at the allergen menu each time you visit us as ingredients can change.
We’d be happy to respond to any specific requests for further information or receive feedback at any time via the contact forms on our websites. Further information on food allergies and intolerances can be found on the Allergy UK Website.