Raise your hand if you woke up this morning with itchy eyes and a runny nose. If you’re anything like me and have terrible seasonal allergies, your hand is high in the air. This topic of allergies got me thinking, how do restaurants deal with food allergies, and do food allergies negatively affect the restaurant industry?
First it’s important to note that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention performed a study that said an estimated 15 million Americans have food allergies; that’s a lot of people. As we sit down for dinner in a restaurant with friends, family, or colleagues, we often take for granted how much effort goes into meal preparation, especially meals that adhere to food safety guidelines; which includes the accommodation of a myriad of allergies. This isn’t easy, but it is something that has to be done. Some restaurants even go far enough to create separate menus for allergies like tree nuts, eggs, shellfish, and dairy. Although most, if not all restaurants take allergy precautions, the approach to actual food allergen training for restaurants is haphazard at best. As of now only Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Virginia have laws designed to make it safer for individuals with food allergies to dine. Although only five states have legitimate laws in place about food allergies all restaurants train their staff in how to deal with these issues, and Mike Spigler, vice president of the education non-profit group Food Allergy Research & Education says, “It’s inevitable that laws similar to those already in place will pop up in other states soon.”
Food allergies aren’t solely the responsibility of the restaurant and restaurant staff. Diners who have food allergies have responsibilities here, too. It is up to them to let their server know, or even better let the restaurant know beforehand about what kind of dietary restrictions they are dealing with so that said restaurant can be ready to accommodate.
Food allergies are not the most fun issue to deal with in a restaurant, but when the word “allergy” does enter the conversation, any expert will tell you that chefs can’t afford to be doubtful. I actually give restaurants a lot of props because they do a very good job dealing with food allergies and being accommodating to customers. Overall, to answer my questions from above, restaurants deal with food allergies by taking extra precaution like building out separate menus for their customers, or being easily able to switch parts of a dish; and although allergies can be a pain, I wouldn’t say that they have an outwardly negative effect on the industry. Food allergies, seasonal allergies, or really any type of allergy is a hassle to deal with but an issue that needs to be monitored; so if you’re a restaurant, keep taking precaution, and if you are a like me, take a few Claritin.