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Ordering Food for Offices with Allergies

Imagine feeling anxious at every team lunch. Unsure which ingredients may trigger an allergic reaction an innocent sandwich or snack platter becomes a risk for those with food allergies. Allergies are a serious matter which impact a surprisingly high number of Brits and most certainly someone in your office.

Navigate this sensitive workplace situation with knowledge, respect and clear processes.

According to Allergy UK, Briton has some of the highest prevalence rates of allergic conditions in the world with an estimated 1-2% of British adults suffering from a food allergy. Pay attention to the needs of employees with food allergies by taking the following approach.

Talk about it

Create an office environment which enables employees with food allergies to comfortably speak up about their condition. While some may feel confident sharing, others may be hesitant to say they’re the reason for the office ban on peanuts or explain their absence at birthday celebrations with cake.

Post the top 14 food allergens in a common area and help educate others about the risks associated with food allergies. This type of content in a public space may serve as the starting point of a conversation.

The 14 most common food allergens and where to watch for them in the workplace:

1. Celery and celeriac — celery salt is in many canned soups, prepared sandwiches, crisps and batter for frozen foods. 

2. Gluten — a protein found in grains (wheat, barley and rye) is included in most breads and pastas unless otherwise specified. Check out our gluten free options for office catering.

3. Shellfish — shrimp, lobster and crab. Look for foods that use fish stock and fish paste.

4. Eggs — hard boiled eggs in salads and items which are breaded and dipped in eggs.

5. Fish — Caesar salad dressing and, believe it or not, Worcestershire sauce!

6. Lupin — sometimes included in baked goods, but quite rare in the UK as we’ve removed lupin from most products. Double check imported foods.

7. Molluscs — mussels, oysters and squid. Even the shells can cause an allergic reaction so be aware of shared utensils and cleanup.

8. Milk — most often cow’s milk but may include milk from other animals like goat or sheep cheese.

9. Mustard — many condiments like BBQ sauce, marinades and sometimes curry contain mustard seeds.

10. Nuts — even a sprinkle can cause harm, so be aware of crushed nuts as cake toppings or sauces which contain walnuts, cashews, pistachios and other “tree nuts”.

11. Peanuts — despite the name, peaNUTS aren’t nuts at all (legume family). Many Thai food dishes and foods fried in peanut oil are risk items.

12. Sesame seeds — sesame oil is made by cold-pressing which retains most of its allergenicity. Be aware of anything with sesame oil, including tahini.

13. Soy beans — a common “hidden” ingredient in many dishes. Watch out for breaded foods and anything that may contain hydrolyzed plant protein.

14. Sulphur dioxide and sulphites — a naturally occurring compound found in several foods (garlic, onions, broccoli, kale) is also used as a common food preservative. Dried fruits and wine often have extra sulphites added to lengthen shelf-life.

Order office catering for EVERYONE

Communicating with people in the office about food allergies is the first step. Now, take action to protect employees from coming into contact with foods that may trigger an allergic reaction. In addition to taking necessary steps in common areas, such as providing private cupboards or refrigerator space for those with highly sensitive allergies, ensure working lunches and catered events are suitable for everybody.

Today’s selection of catered workplace meals is plentiful. Take food allergies into account when ordering food for team meetings. One approach is to order an individual meal for those with a food intolerance. OfficeServe offers a gluten-free lunch box for those with a gluten allergy and several vegan options for those with a dairy allergy.

Another approach, which feels a bit more inclusive, is to order food which accounts for the food allergy but is OK for the entire team to eat. Eliminating the allergen from a food order entirely can be a nice way to support those with food intolerances while not highlighting their allergy as a team problem.

Order office catering with allergens listed

Food labelling is an extremely important part of everyday life for those with food allergies — office catering is no exception. When prepared food is properly labelled it makes things easier for the person in charge of ordering and reduces stress for those with food allergies. Food labelling is also important for those who follow halal customs and those who prefer not to eat meat or dairy due to life style choices.  

Work with trusted food partners

Look for restaurants and food caterers who hold food safety accreditations. Food providers with SALSA (safe and Local Supplier Approval) and BRC (British Retail Consortium) certificates have demonstrated a high standard for kitchen and food safety. Prevention of accidental ingestion of a hidden food allergen starts with food safety at the source.

Have an emergency process established

First aid contacts should know how to respond in a food allergy emergency. As many symptoms are life-threatening a quick and appropriate response is essential. Establish a process for dealing with food allergy reactions from start to finish, including understanding the personal needs of the team. Does the person with food allergies carry an EpiPen? Are food reactions common and how severe are they when they do occur?

Create an action plan with your team and reach out to Allergy UK, the leading national charity supporting the nearly 21 million UK allergy sufferers, for advice (01322 619 898).

Need help ordering office catering? OfficeServe is proud to hold both SALSA and BRC food safety accreditations and follow strict standards when it comes to food labelling and stopping food allergies at the source. By operating our own kitchen, we control the entire supply chain, thus, giving us direct control over food safety, quality and freshness. Reach out to our Sales Manager Mathias Mandel for more details (

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