Offering gluten-free food attracts diners and has real profit potential. People with coeliac disease and the friends and family they eat with are worth an estimated £100 million to the hospitality industry.
Whether you are producing gluten-free meals already and not actively promoting your offer, or if you need to make minor adjustments to your ingredients and processes, it is worth the time and investment in the long run.
The diner requiring a gluten-free meal drives the decision on where to eat, when it comes to eating out with others. Catering gluten-free doesn’t have to be difficult, but you need to understand the basics of the law, how to manage cross contamination and have good control over your ingredients.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease, not an allergy. When someone who has coeliac disease eats foods that contain gluten, it damages the gut and prevents the absorption of nutrients from food leading to a range of symptoms including; anaemia, bloating, diarrhoea, nausea and constipation. The treatment is a strict gluten-free diet for life.
The law on gluten-free
Only foods that contain 20 parts per million (ppm) or less can be labelled as ‘gluten-free’. The law applies to packaged foods and foods sold in catering establishments so it is important to get it right. But, with the right training and procedures in place it is possible to produce gluten-free meals in a catering environment.
How to prepare gluten-free in the commercial kitchen:
You don’t need a separate kitchen to prepare gluten-free food, but there are some steps you need to take to ensure food is gluten free. Here are five simple steps to preparing gluten-free food in your kitchen.
1. Source the right ingredients
- Use trusted suppliers who label their products gluten-free
- Where ingredients are not labelled gluten-free check the ingredients information, make sure you have a process in place to monitor ingredient changes
- Gluten-containing cereals must be listed and emphasised on ingredients lists so avoid foods that list the words wheat, rye, barley and oats.
- Use naturally gluten-free ingredients like meat, fish, eggs, fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds to you can make tasty dishes which are suitable for all.
2. Store ingredients correctly
- Keep gluten-free ingredients separate from those containing gluten
- Keep open packets sealed and clearly labelled
- Store gluten-free ingredients above gluten-containing
- Keep ingredients information on file in case of any queries.
3. Prep and cook gluten-free ingredients separately
- Use clean utensils or have dedicated preparation equipment for gluten-free
- Keep foods separate during cooking
- Boil gluten-free foods using fresh water, in a clean pan
- Deep frying must be done in clean oil after the fryer has been thoroughly cleaned, consider a dedicated fryer
- Dedicate a section of your grill or griddle for gluten-free
- Use toaster bags or a clean grill
- Ensure staff wash their hands before gluten-free preparation
- If using flour in your kitchen, be careful to avoid cross contamination, research shows if you use standard hygiene practices and separate preparation areas at a distance of at least two metres, it is still possible to prepare gluten-free.
4. Clean equipment well
- Clean shared equipment and surfaces before use, or dedicate specific areas and equipment
- Wash utensils using hot water and detergent and rinse in clean water
- Consider changing whites before preparing gluten-free.
5. Extend care to front-of-house
- Conduct staff training for all
- When serving gluten-free meals, use separate serving utensils and clearly identifiable serving dishes
- Train your team to answer questions confidently. If in doubt they should know who to ask
- Label your menu to let your customers know which dishes are safe for them
- Advertise your gluten-free options to ensure that your efforts do not go unnoticed
- Coeliac UK’s GF accreditation demonstrates that you can safely prepare gluten-free food and is a great way to promote your good work.
This article was written by Kathryn Miller, head of food policy at Coeliac UK, the national charity supporting people with coeliac disease. For more information visit www.coeliac.org.uk/catering .
Coeliac UK Awareness Week runs from 9-15 May aiming to find the missing 500,000 people in the UK who have coeliac disease but don’t know it yet. Visit www.isitcoeliacdisease.org.uk for more information.