Allergens: Creating an Allergy Safety Plan

Allergens: Part 3 of 3 Creating an Allergy Safety Plan

I hope you found the information in the previous 2 segments useful.  We will now take that information and help you create a plan that will provide a seamless and less stressful order process for your customer and allow your staff to provide honest answers that are accurate.


STEP  1: Identify the staff members to serve as your go-to-people and one person to serve as the Allergen Manager. You should have one go-to-person available for every shift.

STEP 2: The Allergen Manager should identify all foods in facility that contain common food allergens. This includes;

  • checking labels of pre-made items like frozen items,
  • check labels of all commercially processed foods like powdered creamers or drink mixes,
  • review all recipes or meet with Chef to go over each menu item.

STEP 3: The Allergen Manager should meet with Chef and walk through procedures for the preparation of each item. Begin identifying items that may be cross contaminated through;

  • Deep fryers,
  • breading or batter,
  • steamers,
  • close contact with air borne particles. (pizza dough maker for instance could also be a problem for gluten)

STEP 4: Create Spreadsheet

Create a spreadsheet listing menu items on the left and 8 allergens across the top. Now in each box put an X if that menu item contains or potentially contains the allergen. Use this chart when assisting customers.

STEP 5: Train ALL staff, including go-to-people, waitstaff & kitchen staff.

Review all preventions we discussed in part 2 of this article

All staff should be familiar with the following;

  • Proper procedures to clean and sanitize equipment, utensils and other food contact surfaces using new wash water and sanitizer,
  • How to prepare an allergen kit. Use a different colored cutting board and tools,
  • How to avoid cross contamination of products during storage by following good food safety procedures
  • Understand the importance of following all recipes exactly and not making any deviations without prior permission.
  • Chef must understand the importance of notifying Allergen Manager about changes to the menu, procedures or new sub-ingredients.
  • Waitstaff must understand they need to utilize the go-to-person on duty when someone mentions an allergen.


Although this may take some time and  effort to properly implement, it will create a better experience for the customer and help avoid potential law suits. If you need assistance creating your plan we are here to help.

Contact Sue at 410-382-4325 for a free consultation. 

Allergens: Prevention steps every restaurant should take

Part 2  of 3 Allergens: Prevention

What should a restaurant do to prevent problems?

As with every part of your food safety management system, prevention is the best method. Informing employees of potential problems starts the conversation of prevention. Many jurisdictions require an allergen poster to be posted in an area that employees can readily see. Here is a link for a poster you can download: although this does not replace an Allergen Safety Plan (ASP) it provides valuable information to staff.

Processes and procedures vary from establishment to establishment  and the plan your facility creates could be vastly different from another facility. Please note we are not discussing manufacturing and labeling requirements here. These are recommendations for restaurants that provide on-demand food service.

Have a go-to-person

Having a go-to-person or special menu is an essential part of your ASP. A go-to-person would be someone that has been trained in processes and procedures of the kitchen, familiar with the 8 common food allergens (see previous post), can demonstrate knowledge about allergens, and has time to discuss safe options with the customer. As an alternative many larger restaurant chains have opted to create a menu designed specifically for someone with allergens. However, this takes a lot of resources and may limit chefs from making seasonal changes to the menu. Most small to medium restaurants opt for a go-to-person.

The go-to-person and Chef need to have a good working relationship. When the Chef changes any process or procedures they must notify the go-to-person of these changes so they can discuss whether it affects any menu items. In addition to processes and procedures, the go-to-person must check all ingredient labels and all the sub-ingredients used in a dish. It is easy to identify common allergens on labels. The eight common food allergens must be listed separately under the ingredients with a clear “contains: “ statement.  Not all foods are what your think they are. Did you know there are milk proteins in many hot dogs and soy in most prebreaded items?

Cross contamination is also very important to understand. In food safety we think of cross contamination as the act of pathogens being transferred from one surface to another. However, when creating your ASP you have to look a little deeper. For instance, it is perfectly acceptable to use one deep fryers for all products. There are no food safety concerns. Remember though with allergens it is the protein that causes the negative reaction and proteins can survive in cooking oil temperatures. So, by simply cooking fried shrimp in the same deep fryer that you cook french fries in those fries could cause a reaction in someone allergic to crustacean shellfish, even if they are not cooked at the same time. Does this mean that you can’t cook french fries and shrimp in the same grease? No. It just means that the go-to-person must be aware that this is the procedure. The same result could also occur if using the same egg wash, breading or batter for fish and crustacean shellfish. These are two different allergens.

Cross contamination could also occur during storage. General food safety procedures require that all products should be stored separately and different utensils should be used for each ingredient. This is very important when working with the eight common food allergens. The go-to-person should make observations of the kitchen staff on a regular basis to make sure they are following proper procedures.

When an order is placed by the customer, with the assistance of the go-to-person, the order should be flagged that it is for someone with an allergy and what food they are allergic to. This alerts the kitchen staff that they need to go into allergy mode. Gloves should be removed and hands must be washed. All surfaces that the order will come in contact with must also be cleaned and sanitized before proceeding. This includes equipment as well. It may not be reasonable to clean certain equipment in the middle of a rush, a flat top for example. So this is something also that needs to be addressed with the go-to-person in advance. Okay, so the order is in the kitchen and all surfaces are cleaned and sanitized, however, wouldn’t it add a extra layer of protection to have an allergy kit. In this kit could be a knife, cutting board, utensils, etc…anything necessary to prepare an order. This equipment must be properly cleaned and sanitized in advance and stored in a separate tote allowing kitchen staff to create the order with minimal interruption.

Now that the order is complete it is recommended that the go-to-person carry allergen order to table to avoid any cross contamination with other dishes carried by server. Remember, never use a multi use wiping cloth to clean sides of plates, use a single use towel for each dish. Also, train staff to never thumb plates when serving.

In the next segment we will provide you with a check list to assist you in the creation of your ASP.

Allergens: Are you putting your business at risk?

Part 1 of a 3 part series

Do you have an allergen safety program?

If not your are putting your consumers and your business at risk.  In this three part series we will discuss what allergens are, what restaurants  are required to do and what good practices should be followed by all staff members and help you create an allergen safety plan for your facility.

During my food safety training classes we discuss the topic of allergens. Often I hear stories from food handlers who just didn’t believe the customer was really allergic to the food.  They believed that the customer was just saying they were allergic to get special foods prepared for them. This is a BAD and DANGEROUS attitude to have in the culinary world. Food handlers need to take every order presented to them as if the customer has the most serious off allergies. 

What is a food allergy?

An allergic reaction occurs when your bodies immune system negatively reacts to the proteins in certain foods. A  food allergy can be very dangerous. There are also some individuals that also have food sensitivity or food intolerance. Although they can be disruptive and cause mild symptoms they are not nearly as dangerous. 

A typical allergic reaction can cause symptoms ranging from upset stomach and mild rash to swelling, difficulty breathing and in some cases possibly death. Restaurant staff need to take customers seriously when they state they have an allergy and know what to do to protect the customer.

The FDA identified 8 foods that cause 90% of reactions in humans, they are as follows:

  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans
  • Fish
  • Crustacean Shellfish including crab, shrimp & lobster 1
  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts 2

When someone enters your restaurant and states they are allergic to an ingredient on the list of eight the staff should be trained to get the go-to-person.  But what happens when someone states they are allergic to something not on the list of eight? Be honest! Now is not time for guessing. Unless you have access to all the ingredients and ingredient labels in all the sub-ingredients used to make the product, know all the processes and procedures for that product  you must state that you just don’t know and offer another option.

What about the chefs secret and very special sauce and the chef is off today? There are no secrets when it comes to food allergies. You don’t need to disclose the entire ingredient list but at minimum allergens must be disclosed to “go-to-person”.

Understanding what causes the allergic reaction is just the start. Your facility should have a plan in place for how to handle allergens. Imagine your busiest time and staff is maxed out and moving at a speed most people don’t even understand. Now a question is thrown at the cook about a particular dish. Is he/she really able to process the question and give a safe answer? NO. In the reverse can the average waitstaff handle questions? Are they knowledgeable about ingredients used in sauces, marinades or binders? NO. Having a plan already in place should be a priority for every facility. In tomorrows installment of this series we will discuss what a restaurant is required to do, explain the go-to-persons responsibilities and understand cross contamination that could occur.

If you have any questions about this topic please feel free to ask question on our facebook page,

1 – this does NOT include Molluscan Shellfish like oysters, clams and scallops

2 – Common or usual name of treenuts; Almond, Beech nut,Brazil nut, Butternut, Cashew, Chestnut, Chinquapin, Coconut, Filbert/hazelnut , Ginko nut, Hickory nut, Lichee nut, Macadamia nut/Bush nut, Pecan, Pine nut/Pinon nut, Pistachio and Walnut ( English, Persian, Black, Japanese, California), Heartnut Butternut