Chefs are not happy to hear the words “The customer is allergic.” To some, this means the customer is being picky. To others, it means they must go and talk with the customer to discuss the order in great detail. Why does it make sense to be allergy aware? I have noticed an increase in allergic individuals in restaurants who are demanding allergen-free menu items and not receiving them. Not only does the allergic person sometimes end up with a cross-contaminated food, but they are not taken seriously by the restaurant staff. Imagine if you were the allergic customer attending a banquet. If you let the catering staff know ahead of time that you have an allergy to dairy products, for example, chances are that the staff will do everything possible to prepare your food separately and free of cross-contamination. However, if you show up at the banquet and then notify the staff, it puts the caterers in a difficult situation unless they have some allergen-free meals already prepared for someone like yourself who didn’t let them know. There was a case of a 6 year old girl who ate at a restaurant with her parents and ordered the chili. The parents explained that their daughter was allergic to sulphites and could the restaurant check on the chili. The chef very kindly brought the can to the table which didn’t list sulphites among the ingredients. The girl ate the chili and went into anaphylactic shock. She was rushed to hospital where she died. Everyone could not understand how this had happened. When they traced the ingredient listing back to the manufacturer, the kidney beans from the original supplier contained sulphites. However, this was not listed on the can.
If this restaurant had been allergy aware, they would have provided either a binder or an ingredient listing of menu items on their computer which would have mentioned the possibility of sulphites in the canned chili. Sometimes, ingredients are hidden in foods. For example, if the ingredient listing is natural flavors, it may include MSG. If you are trying to avoid MSG, you need to know this as natural flavors are listed on many products. If your restaurant staff are educated on allergy awareness, you will attract customers who will dine at your establishment because you take their allergies seriously. You will find this in the health food industry which provides many varieties of healthy foods that are wheat-free, gluten-free, pesticide-free, etc. Allergies are tough for restaurants to handle as the customer does not always notify staff. However, when presented with an allergic individual, especially one who suffers from anaphylactic shock, the best procedure is to prepare their menu item totally separate using clean utensils and equipment. By avoiding cross-contamination, the risk of the reaction can be reduced.