Food allergies are a hot topic, especially when it comes to people dining out. Food allergies affect about 32 million people in the United States. Every year, there are more than 200,000 emergency department visits because of food allergies. Chances are, your establishment will serve someone who has a food allergy. An allergic reaction can be very uncomfortable, painful, and even deadly to these people.
There are eight major allergens that the FDA has identified as the most likely to cause allergic reactions. These are: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. Your establishment should try its best to serve safe food to customers with food allergies. The best way to do this is to create a Food Allergy Management Plan and train your employees on it too.
Consider the following questions when creating a Food Allergy Management Plan for your employees:
- Who will be responsible for checking ingredients used in menu items?
Ideally, this should be done before even serving customers. Make a list of what ingredients include what allergens, or make sure whoever is responsible is always available to check on ingredients.
- Who will answer guests’ questions regarding menu items?
This should probably be a shift manager, team manager, or overall manager. This could be the same person who is responsible for checking ingredients for allergens.
- What steps should the kitchen staff follow to avoid cross-contact?
These can include using separate equipment and utensils for allergen-free orders or keeping a cleaning and sanitizing checklist.
- How should staff members handle an allergic reaction?
Be sure to include calling 911 and informing the manager.
Make sure your employees are consistently trained on how to handle food allergens. Train your chefs and servers on which ingredients are used in your menu items before they serve food to an allergic customer. You could even consider training your servers to write an allergy request order on a different colored pad to draw special attention. Also, teach your servers to carry an allergy request order to the table alone, to avoid any mix-ups at the last minute.
Every food establishment is different, so be sure that your plan covers all of your store and that your employees understand their responsibilities. StateFoodSafety works hard to provide the best food safety training. For more information on dealing with food allergies, check out our Food Manager Training.