Caterers in all sectors have had to be very frugal and agile when buying their produce, planning menus and staffing kitchens.

Many have had to review their entire delivery to fit in with less staff, alternative ingredients and attempt to turn less costly ingredients into a desirable menu item and wholesalers are equally struggling with their manufacturers and growers who are increasing their costs.

As a result of these issues caterers will get more substitute products in their deliveries which can cause an impact on allergen controls.

As simple as a different mayonnaise can change the labelling for all the sandwiches which in today’s post Natasha’s Law era is a costly exercise and one that could lead to labelling errors.

Businesses may have adopted a sophisticated online ordering, stock control and ingredient management package which has a live update facility where wholesalers can inform kitchens that a substitute has been made and it is on its way.  If this is connected to an online QR code menu link for consumers, then the channels of communication are open and those looking up allergens on a menu can be assured of accuracy.

On a more analogue basis caterers are ingrained to check all deliveries against orders and then must amend recipes and subsequent allergen information, which then must be made available to staff and customers.

Either method, or other substitute product methods, must be trained into the operation.

Substituting ingredients in recipes can sometimes introduce allergens that were not present in the original version. For e.g.

Original Recipe Milk Free pesto:

  • Basil
  • Pine nuts
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil


  • Nutritional yeast for Parmesan cheese
  • Cashews for pine nuts

Communications between caterers and their wholesalers and suppliers has really improved over recent years and there is a mutual respect and understanding, as all of us in the food chain are experiencing cost challenges.

By ensuring there is a robust and agreeable policy between you and the supplier around managing ingredient substitutions, this will preserve a management allergen process that will protect you and the end consumer!

Blog written by: Julian Edwards FIH, FCSI, CFSP CEO: Allergen Accreditation