An estimated 32 million Americans have food allergies. Unlike seasonal or environmental allergies, there is no preventive treatment. The only way to remain safe is to completely avoid the food you are allergic to every time you eat. On average, a person with food allergies must navigate their safety at least two or three times during the workday. Have you considered if your environment is comfortable and safe for employees with food allergies? With input from food allergy experts, we have compiled some questions to help evaluate your current solutions.
- Is there a clear and welcoming way for employees with food allergies to identify their needs?
- Are allergies considered when planning events that include food? Both on- and off-site?
- Are you including employees with food allergies in your decisions? Or groups that represent the food-allergic community?
- How are shared spaces like break rooms or pantries set up to welcome employees with allergies?
- Is your on-site foodservice program positioned to serve guests with food allergies safely?
This last question is complex and requires additional consideration, especially now. If you have shopped for food or dined out lately, you have certainly noticed the impact of recent events on the food supply. Staffing, shipping and ingredient shortages are impacting every level of the food supply. As a result, frequent changes to food everywhere, from grocery stores to restaurants, are now more common. These changes are frustrating to all of us, but for people with food allergies, they can be truly dangerous. One new ingredient can mean a life-threatening reaction to previously safe food.
It is crucial to have a system that can respond to these changes in real-time. Looking at this from the perspective of a guest with food allergies, what do they need to navigate safely? They need to know that the people preparing their food understand food allergies. Do you have a formal food allergy training program in place? Comprehensive training programs should ensure the understanding of critical topics like label reading and cross-contact prevention.
Next, they need the information to be correct and clear … every time. Accuracy is critical when it comes to food allergies. Incorrect or out-of-date information about what is or is not in a food is a common reason for allergic reaction. Does your program rely on listing allergens on menus or signs to communicate information to guests? If so, how often are purchased products reviewed to ensure no ingredients have changed? How are product substitutions or last-minute menu changes handled? What about product recalls? One of the most common reasons a manufacturer recalls food is for mislabeling allergens. Allergen labeling must be 100% accurate all of the time. Otherwise, it increases risk by reducing the likelihood that the guest will ask questions.
Because of the complexities of the supply chain and ingredient substitutions, it is virtually impossible to maintain 100% accuracy on static menus. Instead, they need a trusted and trained person to go to with questions about the food they are considering. Is there a person in charge of answering questions from guests? Have they been trained in this role? Guests with food allergies need to know all relevant information. Now is not the time for secret sauces or proprietary processes. It is also not the time to guess. Every member of a foodservice team can’t know every aspect of every dish served. A dedicated person in charge of answering guests’ questions ensures that complete, accurate information can be shared.
Helping Clients and Guests Stay Safe
At Compass Group, we have positioned ourselves as the leader in the industry when it comes to serving guests with food allergies through programs that reduce the risk for our clients and for us. We were the first in the industry to have our allergen management training courses reviewed and certified by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). We also offer a suite of allergen management solutions that create inclusive food environments that ensure all guests’ safety.
If you want to discuss how we address these questions and can support your organization, let’s connect.