Daniel Gianelli is dipl. Nutritionist SVDE, BSc BFH
The Hochgebirgsklinik in Davos, the largest rehab clinic in the canton of Graubünden, has 160 beds for adults and 30 for children and adolescents. How many menus do you produce per day? How many are menus for guests with food allergies and intolerances?
Around 360 set meals are cooked per day for the cafeteria and the two dining rooms. About 30 people rely on an "allergologic diet", including children. Nuts have never been processed in the kitchen and no products containing nuts have been purchased. As soon as patients are admitted who mention existing food allergies and intolerances at the medical admissions interview, they will be discussed in-depth during a conversation with nutritional counselling. Afterwards, the dietary kitchen and the service staff will be informed accordingly.
What factors should be considered in introducing and maintaining the management of allergens?
The top priority, and this seems to me to be enormously important, is that someone in the company has extensive knowledge of allergies and intolerances. An external specialist may also be consulted. First, a risk analysis is compiled. Here, all the work steps are recorded and any risks are recorded in writing. This risk analysis is revised once a year.
These risks begin while shopping, for example the lack of declaration of foods. The special foods (e.g. gluten-free flour) are not stored in the same rack in the warehouse, but away from each other in order to avoid mix-ups. Once opened, these foods are kept in special cabinets. Cross contaminations, i.e. unwanted contamination with allergens, can occur via pans, work equipment, via employees or through inadequate cleaning. For this reason the dietary kitchen has its own pans and utensils. And last but not least, the placement of the food at the buffet must be well thought out, for example, the sauce without milk must be far away from the one with milk. In short, the whole process from delivery to serving has to be considered.
What does allergen management mean for your kitchen?
Cooking takes place in the dietary kitchen, a separate part of the main kitchen. Care is taken there to ensure that tools such as pans, spoons and bowls are stored separately and only used in the dietary kitchen. Depending on the allergies food may also be cooked separately. There is a small oven, where only gluten-free dishes are baked. The patisserie is separated spatially by a glass pane, so that cross contamination cannot occur. I am thinking here, for example, of flour that could spread through the air into the kitchen.
Was there a special challenge when introducing allergen management? For example, in the training of the staff?
Processes such as quality management and risk analysis have been developed in collaboration with the staff, and all disciplines are included, the dietary cook, the classic chef and the service staff alike. There is a daily team meeting, where the allergies of each affected person are discussed. The employees are sensitised to the allergy problem. Also, if, for example, guests come for dinner, they can ask for allergen information in the kitchen at any time. Once a year, employees are also trained and brought up to date with regard to dealing with allergies and intolerances.
What are the advantages of allergen management in the company?
Safety! Safety on both sides. The guests and patients know that the processes are checked and that the staff know what is contained in the meals served. On the other hand, the staff, the kitchen workers and the serving staff are safe in dealing with food allergies. They know what they are doing and know that they must not put those affected at risk.
How do you assess the requirements for the Swiss Allergy Label?
The requirements and the regulations are clearly formulated and well thought out. They are well founded and entirely appropriate.