Free From Eating Out Awards - Entry Opens on May 27th 2014

Vegan cooked breakfast

When a press release for the 'Free From' Eating Out Awards arrived in my inbox, it couldn't have come at a more appropriate time. I spent the Bank Holiday weekend away from home and the hotel breakfast was what I like to affectionately call "allergy roulette". I admit, I didn't want to cause a fuss, we rocked up at the end of service, so I made do based on my instincts rather than identifying myself as "the weird customer with allergies". Funniest moment was asking the Wait Staff if dairy free milk was available and getting the response "no, but we have soya milk". Bless, I will say that English probably wasn't their first language so I guess things got lost in translation, which I can forgive to a certain extent. A Vegetarian cooked breakfast was available so I did some guess work and adapted it to Vegan (dairy & egg free). First attempt at this breakfast had to be returned as I was served bacon and sausages. The Continental breakfast buffet was a no go zone. Unlabelled cereals, what a headache, I would have had to ask staff to show me ingredients for ten cereals to determine which ones I could eat and frankly I can't be bothered with that. I declined toast because these days milk keeps sneaking up on me in bread.

This experience certainly wasn't a one off and it is why I will follow the 'Free From' Eating Out Awards with great interest. My experience at the hotel was a prime example of the frustrations when trying to enjoy a meal away from home. Those who have allergies/intolerances are often faced with limited choices on menus and the food service industry lacks understanding about food allergy and coeliac disease.

The awards are being launched to coincide with the build up to the new Food Information Regulations (FIRs) coming into force in December 2014. These will require all food service outlets to provide accurate information about any of the 14 major allergens in the food that they serve. The 'Free From' Eating Out Awards are designed to raise awareness of the opportunities offered to food service providers by the growing numbers of those either needing, or choosing, to eat ‘free from’. The new awards will celebrate not only imaginative and exciting gluten, dairy and egg free menu offerings but good allergen awareness, both in the kitchen and front of house.

Perhaps you know of a good place to eat that caters for allergies and coeliacs, may be you should encourage them to enter these awards? Tell them to visit Free From Eating Out Awards site and follow the links. The awards open for entry on the 27th May and close on the 31st August. Categories include: Restaurants and hotel restaurants, Pubs and pub restaurants, Caf├ęs, coffee shops and ‘take-aways’, Guest houses and B&Bs, Schools, Not for profit services: hospitals, prison services & the military, Food manufactured for food service. A shortlist will be published in mid September. The presentations will take place on November 19th at the Food Matters Live Event at Excel.

Sarah x