Food allergies affect 15 million Americans, a number which appears to be on the rise. Additionally, an increasing amount of individuals choose to avoid certain foods due to personal or religious beliefs.
Dining out can pose a risk for those with food allergies. Every three minutes someone is hospitalized due to an allergic reaction. Every six minutes, this is caused by an anaphylactic reaction—a life-threatening response accompanied by rash, increased heart rate, nausea, swelling of the nose and throat, and even loss of consciousness.
Understandably so, this is something affected individuals would rather not deal with (or worry about) inside their home or work environment. No one particularly enjoys having to turn down the office birthday cake, or ask, “Does this contain xyz?” each company lunch. The alternative just doesn’t leave them with much choice.
To ensure employees with food allergies feel welcome, comfortable, and of course, safe at work, be sure to take these precautionary measures:
- Ask each employee if he/she has any food allergies or special diet requests upon hire.
What’s the point of bringing bagels and coffee to celebrate a new hire, if the new employee turns out to be gluten-free? Ask for all food allergens, intolerances, and preferences on the employee’s first day, if not before.
- Keep your team’s dietary information readily available.
How many times have you placed an order at a restaurant, only to think, “I forgot to ask for no [blank]!” just moments later? No matter how many times you place an order with a catering company, you need to communicate all dietary restrictions. At Zerocater, we store dietary information on your company dashboard. This prevents miscommunications with vendors, and eliminates the hassle of reiterating special requests.
- Understand the common allergens, and hidden names of each.
Eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions. These include dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. Unfortunately, allergens can hide in the most inconspicuous places, and you need to know what questions to ask. For example, gluten is found in soy sauce, couscous, wheat, barley, rye, and beer; and hides in soup, fried foods, and sauces, which may have flour added.
- Take precautions to avoid cross-contamination.
We’ve heard the horror stories of a severe peanut reaction caused by skin contact or inhalation. To avoid cross contamination, we only order from vendors who know how to properly prepare, package, and transport food free from allergens. Food must be cooked with clean utensils, packed in separate containers, and never come into contact with an allergen.
- Carefully label each dish, noting ingredients, allergens, and animal protein
To avoid cross-contamination, and to respect those who do not eat meat for religious or personal reasons, all dishes must be properly labeled. At Zerocater, our labels note seven of the eight common allergens (we account for shellfish, but not all seafood). In addition, we have dietary filters for vegan, vegetarian, and pork.
- Remind your team to update on any changes in diet.
Allergies can develop at any point during one’s lifetime. Create a system where employees can easily make changes to their dietary information.
We work with each restaurant on our platform to collect ingredient and dietary information. If you ever have any questions on a particular dish or food, our Client Success team is happy to answer them!