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Hygenisys Top 9 Tips from the Allergen Roundtable Panel

Tuesday 15th October 2019.

  • Recent Allergen Cases - Byron Burgers, Pret etc - many have faced participation in a Coroners inquest (in the event of a fatal incident). Important to understand the impact of a Regulation 28 report - Report to prevent future deaths. The Coroner has a legal power and duty to write a report following an inquest if it appears there is a risk of other deaths occurring in similar circumstances, known as a ‘report under Regulation 28' or a Preventing Future Deaths report because the power comes from Regulation 28 of the Coroners (Inquests) Regulations 2013. This report is sent to people or organisations who are in a position to take action to reduce the risk and they then must reply within 56 days to say what action they plan to take. Both the report and the reply are made public - posted online and provided to the deceased’s family - so it is important to receive appropriate legal advice when drafting a reply and take care that the contents do not prejudice the company’s position or reputation.

  • Ensure Your Staff are Fully Trained and understand the importance of following your ‘allergen management protocol’.  A number of businesses rely on E-Learning for allergen management training and whilst this has its merits, it is only part of your training toolkit.  E-Learning should not be the only source of training that a food business relies on.  You should also consider, toolbox talks, especially when there are menu changes; workshops are a good way of staff learning about the detail of allergens, using real life scenarios, allergen matrix exercises.  This is a much more holistic way for staff to learn and apply their knowledge in a practical way.  Short sharp training sessions are a good way forward and will strengthen your due diligence defence. Consider a food allergen champion in your food management team.

  • Impact of the 2016 Definitive Sentencing guidelines for food safety - resulting in increased fines up to a maximum of £3million. Sentences now based on level of culpability and serious of harm risked (risk of injury, not actual harm) and company’s turnover. Risk of up to 2 years imprisonment for relevant individuals. It is worth having a preventative, proactive approach to your allergen management systems to avoid facing this type of penalty if things go wrong (or at the very least, consider defending the allegations to trial rather than pleading guilty and hoping for a lenient sentence).

  • Verification of Your System -Consider how best to verify whether your management system would stand up to the scrutiny of an enforcing authority - perform a robust “stress test” by having a high level (desktop) legal review of your policies and a practical assessment of your practices by a specialist safety consultancy company, like Hygenisys.  Verification is key to any management system there are various methods that you can use to assist in verifying your processes, e.g. mystery shopping and link to a an audit solely focussed on allergens

  • Industry Good Practice - Have an awareness of the methods used within the industry to improve allergen management / industry good  practice / relevant guidance - can form useful mitigation in the event of enforcement action being taken against your company

  • Near misses - important to record these and demonstrate what lessons have been learned internally from the ‘near miss’ incidents. This can be managed by your allergen management champion (s).

  • Review of corporate policies / roles and responsibilities - remove hostages to fortune....avoid pointing towards one specific person that may have ‘ultimate responsibility’ for the management of food safety within the business.
  • Leading safety from the top - IOD / HSE guidance; useful document to discuss ways to lead food safety management ‘from the top’ of the organisation.

  • Crisis management/ incident response protocol: important for all employees, agency staff and management to understand how to act in the event of an allergen incident: the first 24-48 hours are crucial in terms of managing the disclosure of information to third parties. Consider the significance of ‘legal privilege’ - is the dominant purpose for obtaining legal advice to advise on liability issues in contemplation of legal proceedings arising from the food safety Incident? If so, you may be entitled to attract legal privilege over your incident investigation report and any other comms prepared in connection with the incident, which means you are not obliged to disclose your report etc to any third party, thereby slowing down the rate of disclosure and reducing the risk of disclosing information that might potentially harm the Company. Allergen Crisis Management Training should be given serious consideration. 

    Contact Hygenisys to discuss.