Heather Landex MSc Env Health,
BSc Biol Intl, MCIEH
Started work in McDonald’s aged 16.
Worked in food and beverage in over 50 food businesses in 4 different countries
Qualified as a UK Environmental Health Practitioner in 2012.
Today, experienced in 8 countries working within Environmental Health specialized in Food Safety.
Currently subcontractor for the World’s largest compliance firms in hospitality.
Worked with >1000 food service outlets.
Possesses a 360° view of food safety, allergy and dietary management, from the consumer, food handler and inspector perspective.
I was first exposed to food handling in McDonalds, who have an established food safety training program. However, at 16 being trained by 17 year old boy, with only a couple of hours to digest a large binder full of food safety terminology, I have to admit, I was not the best example of food safety.
When I graduated with a Biology degree, I moved to Australia to be a conservationist, the reality of mammal surveying involves too much cruelty to animals for my conscience. I then became a Dive Master in New Zealand. This career path did take me to unique and wonderful places and taught me first aid, remote working, advanced diving, self-rescue and oxygen administration. I can also tag a stingray, microchip marsupials and I know how to avoid snake, scorpion or spider bite, and many other weird and wonderful skills.
I then returned to the UK in 2010. I qualified as an Environmental Health Practitioner, whilst getting first-hand experience working at a council on placement and as an Environmental Health Technical Assistant, which covers food safety, health and safety, housing standards, pollution control, land contamination, pest control and other public health and disease control functions.
I had not really anticipated how much I would dislike being an enforcer (food police) or the prospect of prosecuting someone or appearing in court. Enforcing food safety often caused business owners considerable financial pain and distress. I discovered that I much prefer encouraging, coaching, training, problem solving and saving waste as a consultant and being an ambassador for dietary preferences.
I was lucky enough to be a Food Safety Supervisor at the London 2012 Olympic Games. I then worked for a risk management company inspecting hotels for safety around Europe, Iceland and Turkey, followed by a small consultancy as an Environmental Health Consultant including working in Michelin star restaurants in London and manufacturers, caterers, cafes and restaurants across England.
Now living in Denmark, I inspect hotels and check food safety practices in restaurants against brand standards across Denmark (and Sweden) for some of the largest most well-known, respected and sophisticated restaurant chains in the World.
I have aspirations to change the World, promoting safety and ”inclusivity”. Being a vegan myself, I want to encourage vegans to be so freely because many of them hide and eat out as vegetarian due to cultural norms. I think everyone should be able to eat out, be included no matter their dietary preferences. If restaurants can serve me then they can better serve all their customers including allergy sufferers who are currently largely excluded from eating out (including eating at the work canteen) which is particularly sad for children.
I would like to spread the message of “inclusivity” and in the process, save lives, improve compassion and happiness in the food retail industry. I want it to become normal, mainstream, widespread, infectious that these people are considered and on the food outlet part it should be straightforward, profitable and rewarding.
I started out in school most interested in practical subjects, biology, chemistry, photography, art. A strange mix. That is when I was first exposed to food handling in McDonalds. McDs do actually have an established training system which is quite superior. However, given I was 16, being trained by a boy only a year above at school, with poor personal hygiene, and then given a large binder of food safety terminology to digest in the office (no windows) within a 2 hour time limit, I have to admit I was not the best example of food safety. I had no stars, and I did not really have ambitions to receive any although my cashier skills were super. I worked the drive thru and liked working weekends as the time went faster. I loved my colleagues as the comradery was awesome. When an auditor for McDs (someone who does what I do today) visited the franchise I was criticised for not washing my hands. Basic hygiene!
This career path took me to weird and wonderful places, however, I had to subsidise my income working in hotels/events/conferences/bars etc. Also I learnt first aid, remote working, advanced drive, self-rescue, oxygen administration and how to spear fish, tag a stingrays, microchip a rodents (actually marsupials) and how to avoid snake, scorpion or spider bite, in the dark. Actually, the worst was the meat ants and mosquitos (worst experience was Deet insect repellent sweating into my eyes, it was both scary and painful. I was blind in the outback, “crikey!”).
Scuba diving is technically an extreme sport but it has an excellent safety record. Dive Mastering is a bit like being a Food Safety consultant, I train you in skills to an accredited standard (PADI) and then I guide you through underwater terrain at increasing levels of difficulty and depth whilst practising skills. I provide, rent or advise you which equipment you need to be safe, I do all the logistics (fill tanks, load the boat, wash the gear after, even help singles on with their suits). Then most importantly; I am trained and available to rescue you if anything goes wrong, all you have to do is stay close by like a “buddy” and take in the view (and remember to breath!). I also have some additional skills not accredited by PADI such as anticipating needs, making it fun, knowing the local wildlife and where is (most likely) to find it, how to interact with it and not get bitten, stung or entangled or damage it. The difference between a good and bad dive master is caring about their customers and the environment.
I was a Food Safety Supervisor at the London 2012 Olympic Games athletes dining. I returned to the council temporarily and then worked for a risk management company inspecting hotels for safety around Europe, Iceland and Turkey, when I met my husband. I then worked in a small consultancy as an Environmental Health Consultant. I worked in Michelin star restaurants in London and also manufacturers, caterers, cafes and restaurants across England.
I have been vegetarian since having my children and vegan since March 2019. In August 2019 I had an ambulance trip to hospital with suspected anaphylaxis. It was not until I tried veganism I realised I have a problem with milk. This day I thought was my last. I had swollen tingly lips and eyes, a rash across my chest spreading to my neck and down to my belly button and my hands and feet were white and numb. I thought I was going to die and I have since heard from a nut allergy sufferer that “the feeling of impending doom” is in fact a symptom of allergy attack.
I have yet to have a full diagnosis and yet to establish if I have a skin or food allergy. Luckily pumped full of drugs, immunosuppressants and antihistamines I flew home and began suffering a tremor and hives. I have since been avoiding milk however there must be something else and with a shortage of allergists, I am on the waiting list. Do you know how difficult it is to avoid milk? Or narrow it down by an elimination diet, its near impossible. I am vegan and still … it is in everything particularly when eating out, breakfast at hotels, take out coffee. Yes, I have been served the wrong milk in my latte, more than once. Yes, there were consequences for me later that day and my husband had to stay home from work to take care of the children. However, I am slowly getting my confidence back, unlike most food allergy sufferers. I cannot stand black coffee so I still dare to take the risk more than occasionally. There will always be a little milk residue in a barista latte (unless it is from my home coffee machine).
I have aspirations to change the World. I want to encourage vegans to be vegan freely because so many hide, eat out as vegetarian due to cultural norms. I think everyone should be able to eat out, be included no matter their dietary preferences/needs. It’s also healthy but if you are leaning towards veganism or flexi-tarianism please take a Vitamin B12 supplement, then you can tick positive effects against all the chronic diseases associated with our diets today (CVD, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, IBS, even arthritis).
If restaurants can serve me, then they can better serve all their customers, including allergy sufferers, who are currently largely excluded from eating out. Plus, vegans/flexi-tarians do not only eat at vegan restaurants (a popular misconception). I have non vegan friends, family and colleagues, I need to eat at work, in hospital, at school, at events and I need my oat milk lattes! If there is a vegan friendly/adaptable menu it is also friendly to allergy sufferers (particularly milk, egg, fish, shellfish, crustaceans etc etc – and they are only the better known allergens) and religious groups who perhaps avoid beef,pork or dairy or other religious holiday specific restricted diets.
If a restaurant can assure me their vegan options are safe (no trace of milk or egg) then they can appeal to more customers.
It matters, particularly in institutions, for children’s mental health they must be included. Allergies are actually more common in children, particularly milk and egg. It also affects the diet of a breastfeeding mother. My mother tells me I had an egg allergy as a baby. I have not even mentioned food sensitivities, intolerances or aversions. The more I learn, the more it matters and the more it seems to matter the more I am driven to learn.
My reasons for being vegan are many but for the most part it is voluntary. I am happy for everyone to eat how and what they want. However for some it is involuntary. It should be a right to be included and feel safe and the law at least in the UK appears to be changing to protect that right although it seems to over complicate labelling and detract attention away from actually managing allergens effectively. I would like to spread the message of “inclusivity” and in the process, save lives, improve compassion and happiness in the food retail industry. I want it to become normal, mainstream, widespread, infectious that these people are considered and on the food outlet part it should be straightforward, profitable and rewarding.