Food Allergy Awareness Week: What Your Restaurant Should Know

15 million. That’s how many Americans have food allergies. Any person can be allergic to any type of food but the most common are dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Most of these ingredients can be found in restaurant menus. “There is no cure for food allergies,” says Stefano Luccioli, M.D., a Senior Medical Advisor in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Food Additive Safety (OFAS). According to the Food Allergy Research and Education, 1 out of 13 children have food allergies. These persons can’t enjoy dining out as much as the normal person for fear of allergic reactions.

As a restaurant, these 15 million Americans is a growing market you can serve. To celebrate Food Allergy Awareness Week, we’re giving you tips on how to accommodate persons with food allergies.

It’s serious business. Within minutes to hours of ingestion, symptoms will occur. Difficulty in breathing, reduced blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea can all lead to a fatal attack. As a restaurant, be aware of customers having a food allergy. Contact medical help immediately.

Make a plan. Create a food allergy management plan for your restaurant. Staff should know who will answer customer questions related to menu items and ingredients. Food safety manager training may be required for the go-to person on your allergy management plan. This way, staff can rely to one person for all food allergy related inquiries and plans.

Avoid cross-contact. This is different from cross-contamination. Cross-contact is when a trace amount of an allergenic food is unintentionally incorporated into another food. To avoid this, all utensils and equipment must be washed with hot, soapy water before preparing allergy-free food. Tables and chairs must be sanitized as well.

Start a dialogue. Person with food allergies will have a lot of questions. As an establishment who will accommodate their needs, direct them to the food safety manager. A conversation will be the beginning of fully understanding what the customer needs in order to have a safe meal.

Label.  Put signs in your restaurant that you can serve allergy-free food. Lately, Japan has set up a panel on a warning system in restaurants for consumers with food allergies. Place it in your menu or setup a poster.

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