Ive touched on this subject before on more than one occassion. Head over to the Pro Chef Network to find out more. It can be a very frustrating thing to deal with on a personal level, and also for restaurant and catering operations. New legislation for QSR and mid scale dining demands that ingredient and nutritional information is made available to the consumer. This however doesn't help the operator or the customer much in terms of allergies. The reason that I advocate so much about clean food and proper cooking technique, is that the issue of allergies is much easier to deal with. If you have to run and check a label on a processed food product every time an allergy issue comes up, it can be very frustrating. If on the other hand everything is scratch, you already know if it is safe for the individual. And if you run a good shop, you have all the needed documentation in place!
Millions of people have food allergies that can range from mild to life-threatening. Here’s what you need to know for Menu Planning, Food Preparation, and Guest Service
Allergic reactions occur in certain individuals from sensitivity to particular foods. Any food can cause a reaction, but there are 8 common ones that result in about 90% of the allergic reactions in people.
Food allergens are food proteins that the immune system mistakes as harmful, mounting an attack that can result in nausea, shortness of breath, hives or rashes, swelling of body parts (face, eyes, hands, feet), vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In severe cases, anaphylactic shock may lead to death. Foodservice operators today are including information on potential food allergens and are training their staffs to be aware of menu items that include the major ones. Many menus today address customer concerns by including icons on their menus indicating allergens in foods, and also by providing allergen-free options for their guests.
Every operation should develop a Food Allergy Reference Book with a listing of ingredients for all menu items that is available to everyone in the operation.
THE BIG 8 ALLERGENS
FOR GUEST SERVICE
For most restaurants food preparation is done in an environment where all Big 8 allergens are present. Provide a menu ingredient guide for guests to navigate the menu if they have allergy concerns. For those with severe allergies to certain foods, it’s best not to make guarantees that foods are completely free of any of these allergens because incidental cross contact can occur anywhere in the food preparation and service process. Always let the guest make their own informed decision.
WHEN A GUEST INFORMS YOU THAT SOMEONE IN THEIR PARTY HAS A FOOD ALLERGY, FOLLOW THE FOUR R’S BELOW:
Refer the food allergy concern to the chef, manager, or person in charge
Review the food allergy with the guest and check ingredient labels
Remember to check the preparation procedure for potential cross-contact
Respond to the guest and inform them of your findings
If a guest has an allergic reaction, notify the person in charge and call 911 to ensure that medical attention is brought to the correct location.
COMMON RESTAURANT SCENARIO
Communication among Front of House, Kitchen, and Guest with Food Allergies starts with asking the guest whether there are any dietary instructions. Include a statement on the menu to assist the guest. Example; "If you have any food allergies, please make your server aware when ordering". Use icons on the menu to denote items that are or can be made Vegetarian or Gluten Free.
At the table, when the guest gives a complete list of food allergies and dietary restrictions to the server, the server can then ask the guest questions regarding severity of the allergy. The server can then ask the guest to pick a few dishes off the menu that are of interest, specifically discussing proteins (i.e., main elements) of the dish he or she would like to enjoy. The guest and server interaction streamlines itself the more knowledge the server has regarding common allergens present on the menu.
The server should then consult the chef and review the Food Allergy Reference Book to confirm menu recommendations for Guest. After the chef offers or approves recommendations, the server returns to guest’s table and relays menu information. The server and guest agree upon allergen-free menu items and/or dish modifications.
There are ways to engineer a menu to make it easier for servers and cooks to adapt to guest’s allergen concerns. These can include eliminating the use of wheat flour in soups and sauces as much as possible. Offering vegan soups will eliminate dairy or animal products. Items like nuts can be offered as a garnish, for example on a salad or soup, that guests can opt to not have. Offer a pasta or grain dishes that can be prepared without dairy or other allergens like fish or shellfish.
When preparing items that are intended to be free of certain allergens, be mindful of your preparation to ensure correct ingredients are used. Also ensure, as much as possible, to avoid cross-contact with allergenic ingredients by way of utensils and equipment.
Examples of Potential Sources of Cross Contact:
Cooking oils, splatter, and steam from cooking foods
Utensils - spoons, knives, spatulas, tongs, etc.
Small Wares - cutting boards, bowls, hotel pans, sheet pans, pots, pans, etc.
Equipment - fryers and grills
SAMPLE RECIPE ALLERGEN FORM
Kind of sensitive topic, but very important these days. This issue with food allergies is a growing problem, but there are solutions. The biggest contributor to food allergies and related diseases is primarily the foods we have been eating over the last 50 years. GMO's, pesticides and herbicides have made us sick. They are in everything, and not just processed and convenience foods! We need to start eating clean and mindfully, or basically we are going to die. Most of the milder conditions we experience, discomforts if you will, will only get worse, and many will eventually lead to disease and associated illnesses. We are basically killing ourselves with the food we eat! If you feel you may want a change, give me a shout, i may have a solution for you. As a certified Chef de Cuisine and Nutritional Coach, I can help. Have a look HERE.
Cheers, and have a great weekend!