Earlier this month it was widely reported that the number of hospital admissions for allergic reactions and anaphylactic shocks in England has increased by more than a third in the past five years.
My friend Kim Antoniou knows first hand how terrifying an experience like this can be.
Like a growing number of people of all ages, her husband, Ron, has a food allergy. He’s severely allergic to sesame and has to be extremely careful about dishes he eats, especially when he relinquishes control of the cooking by eating out. This can be a minefield and in 2012 at a family gathering, restaurant staff assured him that the dish he’d chosen was safe to eat. It wasn’t and he went into anaphylactic shock. He was unconscious for over an hour – an incredibly stressful experience for his family.
This distressing incident was one of the catalysts that helped Kim and I to develop Kafoodle.
I’ve built my career in the hospitality industry and sometimes admit to frustration in seeing how little technology has been adopted in restaurants to connect waiting staff with the chefs in the kitchen.
Kafoodle aims to rectify that, helping restaurants to assure total transparency over ingredients for customers. This isn’t just useful; it’s also the law. Legislation in 2014 made it obligatory for restaurants to be able to provide details of allergens included in dishes on demand. This month, the law was extended to include labelling of food products not made on the premises – and a good thing too.
The growth in allergies and food intolerances as well as an increasing demand for foods and dishes that cater for specific diets has been well documented. Requests for gluten-free dishes, or demands for low sugar foods are no longer unusual and Kafoodle’s app helps people to find restaurants serving the kind of food they want to eat.
It’s not just about preference; it’s about health and personal safety. So it’s depressing to read that Food Standards Agency data shows that more than 500 care providers in the UK, including 19 hospitals and other NHS facilities, have failed hygiene and food safety inspections. This includes nurseries, childcare centres, playgroups, hospices and above all, care homes.
My background may be in hospitality and food service but Kafoodle is also a technology company and I feel that technology could play a vital role in helping care sector catering to better manage the complex dietary requirements of their patients and pupils.
Earlier this year, we received funding from the government’s innovation body, Innovate UK, to develop new software, which will support caterers in the care sector to create meals that support complex diets and medication plans, uniquely bringing drug-food interactions into the mix. This will mean that not only will patients be able to enjoy food appropriate to their diets but also that caterers will be able to personalise menus for patients so that dishes are appropriate to their medication.
A prototype of Kafoodle Kare will be available in spring 2017 and we’re already working with care homes and hospitals but I’d urge others in the care sector to get involved and feed into it.
Personalisation of care, like the increasing demand for choice in the hospitality sector, is happening. It’s up to care providers how much they’d like to shape it.
Tarryn Gorre is looking for those in the care sector to participate in the trials of Kafoodle Kare. Find out more about Kafoodle at https://www.kafoodle.com.