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Make Your Restaurant Food Allergy Friendly

As a restaurant owner, educating yourself and your staff about food allergies is essential.

Although the number of adults and children with food allergies is relatively small, restaurant owners should be more aware of this unique group of customers. Allergic reactions can result in death in the worst case scenario. Restaurant owners have a responsibility to educate staff about food allergies and to communicate to patrons about potentially problematic menu items.

While restaurant owners are now under a certain obligation to address the issue of food allergies for reasons of social responsibility and legal protection, some restaurants have taken their handling of the issue to another level.

Many local restaurants and popular nationwide chain restaurants, such as Red Robin and California Pizza Kitchen, have instituted special menus for customers suffering from allergies. Being an allergy friendly restaurant can help you win people suffering from allergic reactions and their families as new patrons. The following is some key information on food allergies that can help restaurateurs better and more responsibly serve this community.

In the United States, approximately 6% of all American children under the age of three and about 1.5% of all adults suffer from food allergies. There are eight foods that cause allergies and the FDA has mandated that warnings must be placed on the labels of products containing them. The food allergies which are considered the most common include the following:

  • eggs
  • fish
  • milk
  • peanuts
  • shellfish
  • soybeans
  • tree nuts
  • wheat

Proteins that come from these foods are responsible for about 90% of the more common food allergies known to medicine today.

Individuals in the current and past generations of a person’s own family who have displayed a history of asthma, eczema, and hay fever are typically the most susceptible to these food allergies. When an allergenic reaction occurs, the immune system malfunctions and perceives the particular food to be a threat to it. The protein of a particular food group could be the invader and the immune system reacts by producing an antibody known as immunoglobulin E or IgE.

The more common allergic reactions are:

  • wheezing
  • hives
  • diarrhea
  • cramps
  • sniffling

Sometimes within 30 minutes of the reaction to a certain food, there are serious complications such as anaphylaxis. Airways become restricted, the blood pressure drops dramatically, suffocation occurs when the throat swells, and death can result. Simple blood or skin tests can be performed to detect the presence of any food allergies. The skin is exposed and pricked with a specific food protein (the one in question) and should a bump or some form of hive occur, this confirms the existence of the allergy.

The most common treatment for food allergies is maintaining a diet that is free from the foods that are causing a reaction as well as products containing that food. Allergies to dairy, peanuts, and soy are more common in children than adults and tend to disappear as the child ages. When a food allergy occurs for the first time in adulthood, you have that allergy for the rest of your life. Allergies should not be confused with intolerance since this does not involve the immune system or cause death, although it may produce some of the allergic reaction’s symptoms.

The three most rare food allergies are chamomile tea, fruit, and gluten.

Those who suffer from these allergies will discover that they are not as common or well-known and are not considered as important in most food establishments and restaurants. The fact is, the percentages of adults and children with any of these food allergies are extremely small. Therefore, most food allergies are considered to be a rarity. As a responsible restaurant owner you should not let this stop you from preparing to deal properly with the food allergy community.

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