How Serious Are Food Allergies? Very Serious!

On 9/15/19, the Washington Post updated a story out of London originally reported in 2017:

Owen Carey was finally 18, and a London burger joint on the River Thames seemed like a great place to celebrate.

The teenager opted for a grilled chicken breast. Just to be safe, Carey alerted staff at the branch of the Byron restaurant chain about his dairy allergy. It appeared he was satisfied with what he was told, and after ordering from a menu that made no mention of it, dug into a meal that had been marinated in buttermilk.

He got through a few bites. Then, his lips tingled. His stomach churned. After leaving the restaurant, he collapsed near the London Eye less than an hour later, the BBC reported.

Many customers cite food allergies as a big reason why they prefer a food service company to direct employment of a chef.  We are better able to stay up to date on allergy training and products, and take away the stress of worrying about whether members will be accommodated.

The most successful meal plans accommodate allergies with a collaborative model.  Here is what you need to be doing!

Know Your Ingredients, and be able to accurately answer questions of people who ask.  As in the London case above, it’s not enough to think a certain dish “should” be ok.

Encourage communication, so that chapter members don’t feel intimidated by interacting with the chef.

Label, label, LABEL!  Have a way to indicate which dishes have allergens, as well as the opposite—which dishes can be eaten by vegetarians, dairy free people, etc.

Practice safe food handling, including hand washing, proper dish washing and sanitizing, and having separate utensils and cutting boards for severe cases.

When in doubt, play it safe.  If you aren’t sure if something is safe for an allergic customer to eat, do whatever it takes to prevent them from eating it. It’s better to pay for somebody to eat at a restaurant than risk sickness or death from cross contamination.