Teaching Confidence in Providing Safe Food Choices

Eating at a Meeting Podcast Episode 138

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Food Allergy Awareness Week 2022 — Together (and Separately) A Passion for Raising Food Awareness

Close-up of woman with long blond hair looking straight at the camera. She teaches confidence around food allergens

Caroline Benjamin and Jacqui McPeake are no strangers to a catering or hotel kitchen, having worked in food service for a combined 35+ years. They are also no strangers to food allergies and other dietary needs, Caroline being allergic to gluten and dairy and Jacqui a mom of a food allergic child.

Together (and separately) their passion for raising awareness of food allergens and intolerance across the food industry has supported the roll out and adoption of allergen legislation in the United Kingdom, teaching about and promoting best practices for allergen management, and implementing policies and procedures that result in safe and positive dining experiences and in return, increased revenue and customer loyalty.

Joining from the UK during Food Allergy Awareness Month, Jacqui and Caroline will joined Tracy on Eating at a Meeting to discuss how food service businesses can help food allergic customers feel safe when looking for and dining at their events/venues, how to increase revenue with food allergic guests, and the importance of the “Near Miss Campaign” they’ve launched to help everyone.

Guest Introduction

Caroline Benjamin is Founder of award-winning Food Allergy Aware, which is in its 9th year. She has worked across all sectors of hospitality including, hospital catering, international cruise line, high street brands, garden centre and pub chains.

smiling woman with long blond hair wearing a navy blue suit. She teaches confidence around food allergiesJacqui McPeake has had a successful career in the hospitality industry. She was Head of Catering at a large University and led her team to win awards for the work they did to manage food allergies for their students

What do safe, inclusive & sustainable food and beverage experiences look like to you?
Caroline — Venues who pro-actively promote and engage with the FHS customer – not just say they offer freefrom and have token dishes, but proactively create a menu, review ingredients and train staff on a regular basis – to ensure they offer a choice for everyone

Jacqui — I am passionate about encouraging food businesses to ensure they are confident in providing safe food choices for all their customers regardless of their dietary requirements.

Do you have an example of a situation that negatively effected you and/or other individuals or groups’ food and beverage experience?
— I am gluten and dairy free, – I have been on a cruise day visit where I was assured they could cater for me, I mentioned on arrival in the morning, whilst speaking with guides, on arrival at the restaurant twice – I was still served a starter with cheese, and also served a fruit pastry basket containing gluten – there seemed to be no process in place to capture the near misses either!

Jacqui — My daughter has food allergies and intolerances and she was invited to attend a Summer School at Oxford University. On the 1st evening they gave her a meal which caused reactions. She told me afterwards that she didn’t feel confident moving away to a University, choosing instead to stay in Manchester to attend University

What is a best practice you use/or have seen to create safe, sustainable, and inclusive F&B experiences?

Caroline — Have a strict process when managing the FHS customer – either a manager/supervisor oversees the order or takes the order – good communication on how meals are prepared without over use of disclaimer statements. Listen to the customer. Freefrom food is costly on numerous occasions I have visited a café for brunch and requested 1 slice of toast and always served two slices which I do not always consume.

Jacqui — A number of restaurants recognize that they should be able to provide meals for customers with food allergies. They make sure staff are trained, they have processes in place they communicate well and make the customer feel comfortable and relaxed.

What do you wish people knew about what you do?
Caroline — Allergen management is so different from food safety and a specialist topic area, food safety experts do not always fully understand the FHS customer and do not understand the proactive approach to providing for this customer..

Jacqui — Food Allergies can cause life- threatening reactions- they are not just a fad diet or a fussy eater !

What is your favorite food and your favorite drink?
Caroline — Desserts which are gluten and dairy free (not fruit salad or sorbet!) preferably made with chocolate 🙂

Jacqui — I love trying new foods when I go out to eat. My favorite restaurant at the moment is a Turkish restaurant. A nice cold glass of dry wine !


Connect with Caroline —   Website  |  LinkedIn  |  Instagram  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

Connect with Jacqui —   Website  |  LinkedIn

Check out other featured guests on the Eating at a Meeting podcast.

Eating at a Meeting is part of the Nitty Grits Podcasts network