Pembroke College, Cambridge goes allergen free

·         Broadest allergen-free food offering of any higher education establishment in UK
·         Timed to coincide with new government legislation on food labelling

‘Simply Pembroke’ is a new initiative by the catering team at Pembroke College, Cambridge that will allow allergy-suffers to find a wide variety of allergen-friendly foods in the cafeteria.

Alongside their usual offerings, Pembroke’s catering team will be providing lunch and dinner options that completely avoid ingredients like gluten, nuts, milk and shellfish. The two new allergen-friendly main courses and six allergen-free side orders on offer will be made using locally-sourced ingredients such as lean meat and fish, fresh vegetables, brown rice and healthy starches.

Within the cafeteria servery, all allergen-free food will be displayed in an ‘allergen safety zone’. Here, gluten-free breads, cereals, cakes and pastries will be kept, along with a designated toaster, as well as dairy-free milk, yogurt, cheese and spreads.

In order to avoid cross-contamination during the preparation of the dishes, the College has ordered a range of equipment from America. Purple is universally recognised as the colour code for allergen-free cooking equipment and so purple utensils, knives and cutting boards have all been sourced. In addition, purple rimmed plates and bowls will be used to serve the allergen-free meals.

Any ingredients used to prepare allergen-friendly meals will also be stored and washed in designated areas. In addition, the kitchen has been equipped with two allergen-free preparation zones, each with its own dedicated fridge and cooking equipment.

The College’s Head of Catering and Conferencing, David Harwood, says: ‘To the best of our knowledge, we are the first tertiary college or university in the UK to introduce such a comprehensive program of allergy-friendly foods, produced with an emphasis on local sourcing, nutritional content and safe preparation. Being centrally located in Cambridge and with a policy of serving all University members, we hope to provide a safe destination for any students, staff and faculty of the University who seek to dine on healthy, nutritious foods in the knowledge that their special dietary requirements are fully met and given the upmost care and attention.’

Pembroke’s new initiative is timely. Food allergies and intolerances have increased ten-fold in the UK over the last 25 years. To reflect this change, new government legislation concerning allergen labelling will come into effect from 13 December 2014. This legislation states that all unpackaged food must now be labelled to indicate whether any common allergens may be present. Pembroke will continue to label any meals containing allergens as well as offering a broad range of foods completely free from 13 of the 14 major allergens covered under the new legislation (we will continue to serve fish as a clearly recognisable allergen).

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