Food Allergy Training is Slowly Being Mandated Across the U.S.

As I’m sure most of you know, we have seen an increase in food allergies in the United States over the past two decades. The science and theories about why that is happening is a topic for another day. However, the rise in food allergies has had a major impact on restaurants and food service establishments. As we see an increase in food allergies, we need to see an increase in food allergy training. This is happening, slowly, in food service across the country. Over the past few years, more allergy training courses and certifications have been developed, and regulations for training and notifications have been put into place. But more needs to be done to educate and train food service employees around safely and successfully accommodating food allergies.

Let’s review some basic food allergy statistics. Approximately 15 million people in the United States have food allergies, including 9 million adults and 6 million children. The 8 most common allergies – including milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts – make up 90% of American’s food allergies. Keep in mind, though, there are many other foods that people may be allergic to. In fact, there are over 160 foods that have been identified as an allergen, including some spices. The CDC has found that between 1997 – 2007 there was an 18% increase in allergy rates in children. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include itching, swelling, stomach cramps, vomiting, dizziness, and even death. It is important that food employees get proper training to protect their customers from illness and, potentially, death.  Along with concerns about proper procedures for food allergens, we must also protect customers with food intolerances and sensitivities and those with Celiac Disease.

Food service employees need to understand the risks associated with food allergies and ways they can prevent allergic reactions from happening to their customers. Proper training is required to learn about the allergens, how to avoid cross-contact, the importance of labeling, and how to engage in open communication with the customers…

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