The National Trust has announced that it will be taking steps to make ‘free-from’ options more accessible in an effort to cater for people with special dietary needs. This is not the first time the National Trust has taken steps to cater for wider dietary requirements, having added vegan and gluten-free options to its menu in recent years.

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What is free-from?

Free-from is a term used to describe foods that do not contain ingredients that are usually known to cause food allergies and food intolerances. According to European Union (EU) law, pre-packaged drinks and foods that are sold in the UK must clearly state on the label if they contain any known allergens. Some popular foods that are usually excluded from free-from meals include eggs; milk; fish; peanuts; wheat; soybeans; tree nuts such as pecans and almonds; mustard; and celery. It is not just food items but also food additives and preservatives such as sulphur dioxide and sulphites.

How the National Trust will serve free-from

People dealing with food allergies usually have limited choices; when eating out, some have even had to resort to just a bag of crisps. The decision by the National Trust to make free-from meals available in its 350+ kitchens across the UK will therefore surely be widely welcomed.

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In an effort to efficiently serve its catering customers, the National Trust sources commercial catering equipment from suppliers such as In 2017 it announced what it called its ‘catering design code’. This is to be implemented as a blueprint for its catering kitchens, using different table design and equipment deemed appropriate not only for the catering style on offer but also the different menus available.

The right type of equipment is, of course, necessary in an environment in which several food options are being offered, but even more so when ‘free-from’ is on the table. The slightest contaminations can have serious consequences, especially for people with food allergies whose symptoms from eating the ‘wrong’ foods could include vomiting, dizziness, nasal congestion and swellings of body parts.

Catering contributed £71m to the National Trust last year, making it the third-largest revenue generator behind enterprise and renewables and membership. 170 of the organisation’s outlets have received the Soil Association’s Bronze Food for Life accolade, which is testament to the progress being made.

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