Are Restaurant Staff Becoming More Food Allergy Knowledgeable?

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Though food allergy awareness is on the rise, you might have wondered just how prepared restaurant personnel are to serve customers with food allergies.

On the bright side, restaurant staffs are - generally speaking - more allergy-aware than a few years ago. However, though 80 percent of one survey’s restaurant respondents had received food allergy training, sizable gaps in their allergy knowledge are evident.

The survey, conducted by Auburn University, queried 110 managerial staff from chain and independent restaurants in the U.S. Among the findings:

  • Close to 22 percent of respondents said that a food allergy reaction occurred in their restaurant in the past year.
  • Out of a possible score of 28, the mean food allergy knowledge score for survey participants was 19.7 - not bad, but not great. Overall, chefs scored higher than managers and owners.
  • The primary strategies restaurants adopted to accommodate food allergies were altering recipes at customer request, indicating food allergens on the menu, and putting food allergen information on their restaurant’s website.
  • Only half the survey respondents knew that arachis oil is peanut oil.
  • Over 40 percent of the participants did not know soy and fish are primary allergens.
  • Less than half the participants understood that food intolerance and food allergy are different conditions.

Survey respondents noted that limited employee interest in going to food allergy trainings (including scheduling conflicts), lack of commitment, and employee turnover made getting and keeping an allergy-knowledgeable staff difficult. Despite these barriers, almost 70 percent of survey participants had provided food allergy instruction to their staff during the past year.

“Findings from this study showed that restaurants have attempted to respond to food allergies both at the front and back-of-the-house functions. These efforts should be continued as food allergy is a health concern that is on the rise,” the study’s authors wrote.

Source: Food Allergy/FARE Photo credit: Lars Plougmann

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