18 Mar 2015
The new EU allergen regulations are causing a stir. But they haven't stopped me playing with my food
Posted: 18 Mar 2015
It's been just over a week since THAT Telegraph article. You know, the one which told us that over 100 British chefs have attacked the EU rules that require restaurants to specify which allergens are listed in their dishes.
It was one of those moments where I was left scratching my head, thinking,
"Wait, you have to know exactly which ingredients you've put in your dishes and highlight if any of those are one of the 14 allergens to diners. Err, and the problem is...?"
But whereas I was left perplexed by the claims from the chefs that the EU rules are inflicting 'significant damage' on Britain's catering industry, Ruth from What Allergy was fuming. She penned an eloquent, entertaining rant about the subject, and as a result was whisked onto BBC Radio Five Live to defend her allergen-free corner. Attagirl Ruth!
In her article, Ruth made the extremely valid point that chefs are taught how to minimise the risk of food poisoning. And yet it seems that potentially causing illness or anaphylaxis by being a bit fuzzy with allergen information is not seen in the same way?
Where I disagree most strongly with the chefs is where they argue that the EU rules are hurting 'spontaneity, creativity and innovation.' I have found the exact opposite to be true. Since I've been creating fun recipes for kids that are free from the top eight allergens - *cough* you can watch them here on YouTube - I've discovered a wealth of new ingredients and cooking methods to make gorgeous, tasty freefrom food.
I'm not pretending for a second that it has been easy. At every turn I've been pushed to find a way around using harmful allergens, but still create a recipe that works. It's been a steep, fascinating learning curve.
Over the years of cooking without, I've had to delve into the science of baking and work out how I can make cakes without eggs and bread without gluten. It's tricky, and I've had my fair share of cake wrecks, but it's a huge slam dunk moment when it all comes together.
Before excluding allergens, I had no idea that you could make milk from rice or oats. That yoghurt could be made from coconut (COYO). Or that an alternative to mozzarella cheese could be made from rice (mozzarisella) or coconut for that matter (Violife). These and plenty of other freefrom producers should be celebrated for their inspiring allergen friendly credentials - Enjoy Life are free of the top eight allergens (although their products are like gold dust, so if you spy them in Tesco - grab 'em), as well as Doves Farm gluten free flour mill, ilumi for their handy ready meals always nut, gluten and dairy free, BFree also shout about a hefty freefrom list; making sandwich wraps which are dairy free, wheat free, gluten free, egg free, soya free and nut free amongst other tasty goods.
So although some professional chefs are moaning about the EU allergen regulations. I've embraced the free from challenge. Avoiding allergens pushes us freefrom bakers to aim higher and get ever more creative. Even if that does mean using cauliflower to make a pizza bases or courgette for mock pasta strips. Hey, I've even made a simple burger recipe in the shape of an ice cream (I know, bonkers, but the kids loved it).
Oh and here's a final thought, if those top 100 chefs are struggling to cook without including allergens, there are my handy substitution sheets which are free to download. Help yourself to them too! They'll revolutionise your allergy baking and have you saying 'Allergens? Schmallergens!' before you know it.