The need for better gluten-free training for hospitality and food service staff is critical, a new study has shown.
New research released in March shows ‘gluten-free’ continues to top the list as the most requested dietary requirement, yet many food service operators do not consider gluten-free training a top priority.
The survey showed gluten-free requests are five times greater than nut/peanut-free meals and seven-times more requested than dairy and lactose-free meals combined.
The findings also reveal that while the hospitality industry is providing more choice for consumers requesting gluten-free meals, gluten is not being treated with the seriousness it should as one of Australia’s declarable allergens. Of those surveyed, one third of hospitality staff claim they have never been offered any form of gluten-free training, despite their workplace serving gluten-free products.
Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Brand Nutritionist at Nestlé Professional, Ms Karen Kingham, urged the hospitality industry to review its approach.
“Best practices are often being forgotten, overlooked or just not considered. For many, the avoidance of gluten is a medical necessity rather than a lifestyle choice, so we need to make it as easy as possible for hospitality to improve the reliability of their gluten-free menus so customers can trust what they order,” Ms Kingham said.
“With an estimated 3.1 million Australians (one in 12) choosing gluten-free, hospitality needs to adapt to meet the demand. It’s more important than ever that businesses provide appropriate training all the way through the food service operation, including both front and back of house.”
With 54 per cent of hospitality staff identifying cross contamination as the biggest challenge when providing gluten-free menus, Cathy Di Bella, Partnerships and Sponsorship Manager at Coeliac Australia, said she isn’t surprised.
“We need to address the lack of trust gluten-free diners have in food service providers’ ability to serve genuine gluten-free meals,” Ms Di Bella said.
“It’s about ensuring diners with gluten-free dietary needs can eat out without falling ill. We also know the odds of having one gluten-free person amongst a group of diners is on the rise, so if you can’t accommodate that one gluten-free guest, you’re actually missing out on the opportunity to cater for the whole group.”
Mark Clayton, Executive Chef for Nestlé Professional, said providing genuine gluten-free foods in a food service setting can be challenging for kitchen staff.
“Because of this challenge, we want to ensure hospitality has the tools, training and quality products it needs to confidently provide great tasting gluten free meals their customers can trust and enjoy, and not miss out on valuable business,” Mr Clayton said.
In support of Coeliac Awareness Week 2020, Nestlé Professional has released the second edition of its gluten-free management resource, Your Practical Guide to Gluten-Free in Food Service. The Guide aims to remove key barriers to providing gluten-free foods via case-study scenarios and streamlined step-by-step solutions and is based on Coeliac Australia’s Gluten Free Standard for Food Service.