Is your facility allergy friendly?

Do you have an allergen program?

Do you “just know” what products you sell contain an allergen?

Without looking, what are the allergens in Hot Dogs, Crackers or Potato chips?

Now go look. Were you right?  Did you possibly miss allergens like milk in many hot dogs and crackers, soy in all three or peanut oil in some potato chips?

Here are some facts about allergies*:

  • It is estimated 9 million, or 4% of adults have food allergies,
  • 6 million, or 8% of children have food allergies.
  • Allergies increased 50% in children between the years of 1997 to 2011, with no explanation as to why.
  • Every 3 minutes someone is admitted to a hospital due to food allergies.

What causes the allergic reaction?

It is a bodies negative reaction to proteins in the food. Proteins are not destroyed during the cooking process and can remain on cooking equipment, deep fry oils, batter, breading and utensils.  It only takes a very small about of the protein to cause a reaction.

What are the major food allergens?

Although there are hundreds of foods that can cause a reaction in humans the FDA has determined that 8 foods account for 90% of the negative reactions.  These foods must be clearly identified on the labels of packaged foods.

  •                 Wheat
  •                 Milk
  •                 Dairy
  •                 Soy
  •                 Fish
  •                 Crustacean shellfish
  •                 Peanuts
  •                 Tree Nuts

What can you do to prevent your customer from having a negative reaction to food from your facility?

 Be proactive. Have a plan in place!  Sounds simple right?  Not so fast.  When I ask students what is your plan where you work.  Many respond by saying “they tell the chef” or “it is marked on the ticket the person has an allergy”.

That is not a plan!  A plan needs to look at every aspect of your facility from design to service.  If a food can not be assured safe then it should not be offered to a guest with an allergy.

Let’s talk about a better method of controlling the risk of allergens.

  • Designate a lead Allergen Manager (LAM).
  • The LAM should inspect all food that arrives at your facility checking labels for allergens.
  • Create a spreadsheet to assist LAM and chef in exploring all foods that enter facility that are commercially prepared. List the 8 allergens across the top and all ingredients that come in to the facility on the left.  Mark an “I” for ingredient in the corresponding box associated with the allergen listed on ingredient list.
  • Create a similar spreadsheet for each menu item.  LAM and Chef should work through entire menu identifying which dishes directly contain an allergen and which ones could be affected by cross contact.  Don’t forget about those sub-ingredients!
  • LAM and Chef should have a good working relationship and be in constant communication when practices or menu items change.
  • LAM needs to share this information with an AM (Allergy Manager) for each shift.
  • Shift AM should hold training sessions with all food handlers discussing proper techniques for avoiding cross contamination from receipt of food to service.  Also discuss proper cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces before starting to prepare a dish for a guest with an allergen and of course proper handwashing.
  • Shift AM should train wait staff that when a guest requests a substitution they should ask if it is for a personal taste preference, dietary restriction or an allergen.  If it is for an allergen staff should immediately call for the AM on duty to assist guest with the order.
  • Place a message on table placard or menu reminding guests “If a member of your party has a food allergy please let your server know.”

In Maryland it is required that you have a poster reminding staff of the 8 allergens.  This poster can be found at

For further assistance with developing a food allergy program in your facility please contact Sue Farace, CP-FS at 410-382-4325


Source: FARE