Saturday, May 30, 2020

Innovative tech firm has solution to food allergy crisis

A food tech start-up has developed software to help solve the dangerous allergy dilemma for food outlets, from the smallest cafes and takeaways to the busiest restaurants.

ePOS Hybrid has welcomed tough new recommendations from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) which has urged Government ministers adopt strict new rules over highlighting the 14 major allergens.

The Edinburgh-based tech start-up says one of the reasons it developed its software was to help restaurants and takeaways to cope with the onerous task of tracking and labelling dishes and ingredients for allergy sufferers.

That issue was thrust into the national spotlight following the death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, after she ate a Pret a Manger sandwich which did not list its ingredients. A high-profile inquest called into question the lack of proper labelling in food outlets.

Her death also prompted the FSA review and this week’s recommendations. FSA chairwoman Heather Hancock described it as a “life threatening issue for a proportion of the population”, but also acknowledged new rules could place a heavy burden on food businesses.

Bhas Kalangi, the founder of ePOS Hybrid, said: “The FSA is absolutely right to highlight the problems that allergen labelling poses for food businesses.

“The time, cost and difficulty of tracking and listing allergens during food preparation was one of the main issues that came up repeatedly when I was carrying out my own research of restaurants and takeaways.

“As a result, businesses are repeatedly failing to do this. For most of them it is simply too complex a problem to track and keep on top of.

“However, our technology provides the manager of a hospitality business with the option to list and update allergen information for all food items with a few simple clicks of a button.”

The ePOS Hybrid platform provides extensive business management, efficiency and streamlining tools, integrated with a full point of sale system. The Android-based system can automate every aspect of a venue’s operation – from stock management to staff training and rotas.

Once implemented, it’s simple to update allergy information across menus, websites and ordering systems at the click of a button. It also ensures all staff have easy access to the information whether in the kitchen, on the floor or in the delivery chain.

Mr Kalangi, who created the system while also running a highly successful software consultancy in London, added: “It is very quick and easy to add allergen information to our system and update it as menus develop.

“The information is copied across every outlet where our system is used and on websites, tablets, digital menus, checkouts and any digital app. Staff have the information easily to hand, while customers can choose dishes with confidence – and crucially the businesses are legally compliant.”

Since it was founded in 2016, ePOS Hybrid has grown quickly and now has 28 staff, with ambitious plans to scale aggressively via further funding rounds while rolling out the system to hospitality businesses across the UK and beyond.

Mr Kalangi and his team say the system is also ideal to help light up so-called “dark kitchens”. These are the non-traditional food preparation units springing up across the country to serve the booming home delivery market.

They are often found in the middle of industrial estates or other unusual locations and produce restaurant quality meals, without putting undue strain on the High Street eateries where diners would normally expect their meals to be prepared.

Mr Kalangi added: “If a restaurant is using our system, quite simply it doesn’t matter if a member of staff is working in a ‘dark kitchen’ on the outskirts of town or meeting and greeting diners in the city centre. They will all have seamless and simple access to the information they need.”

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