Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School
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The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

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Allergy alert

Restaurants should be better equipped to provide for food-sensitive customers

“Wait, does it have nuts?…Can you remove the sesame?….There’s no fish, right?” While to some, I may sound like a broken record, these questions are a must whenever I eat at a restaurant.

Around 15 million people in the U.S. suffer from food allergies, and there are around 200,000 emergency room visits every year due to allergic reactions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food from restaurants has caused almost 50% of allergic reactions resulting in death, over a period of 13 years. One in three people with food allergies reported having an allergic reaction at a restaurant. But, these aren’t just one-off scenarios. This is a common threat to customers with food allergies.

Restaurants should do more to ensure the safety of customers with food allergies. By creating an allergen-friendly environment, restaurants can also target new customers who would otherwise not eat out, which can help improve sales.

As someone with food allergies, and as someone who keeps kosher on top of that, I often struggle with eating at restaurants. Finding kosher food that does not contain fish, eggs, nuts and sesame is not easy, and it limits my family’s ability to eat outside of our home.

Though restaurants pose risks for people with allergies, to create ideal conditions for customers with allergies, restaurants have to spend much more time and money in training, extra equipment and awareness. However, creating allergen-friendly environments could target a new demographic and additionally can help improve sales.

The Environmental Health Services Network (EHS-Net), a branch of the CDC, is dedicated to helping research food allergies and minimize allergy risks in restaurants. In 2014, EHS-Net conducted a study to see how well restaurant employees were trained for food allergy safety. Interviews from staff at 278 restaurants indicated that under half of the employees had not been trained in food allergy awareness and safety.

Additionally, of the restaurants included in the study, only 19.1% reported having designated equipment or utensils for preparing allergen-friendly foods.

Currently, there are many regulations on pre-packaged foods pertaining to food allergies, but restaurants don’t have to abide by those same rules. While some restaurants choose to list allergens and ingredients, not all restaurants disclose what foods have the potential for cross contamination. It is important to disclose this information, especially as it can pose a serious health risk for many customers.

The most important thing an establishment can do is provide allergy training to all its employees. This way, staff can understand how to interact with customers with allergies and learn to take certain precautions when serving foods. Using separate equipment and areas to prepare allergen-friendly food can also reduce the risk of cross contamination and help put a customer at ease. Additionally, providing ingredient lists helps to decrease confusion and notifies customers with allergies.

With increased attentiveness to allergens, no one will have to wonder if they could die just from going out to eat.

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