Posts Tagged ‘common allergens’

Accommodating Guests with Allergies

October 22, 2012

Millions of people across America suffer from food allergies (an estimated 8% of children, and 5% of adults), most of which are to wheat, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, or soy. These types of allergies occur in various severities with some having more than one allergy. For those suffering from wheat allergies as well as gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, the fact that gluten-free foods and menu items are becoming more available is very encouraging.

However, most restaurants still have a long way to go before they are fully equipped and knowledgeable enough to safely and satisfactorily cater to guests with food allergies.

The Dangers

Between 1996 and 2006, there were 63 allergy-related deaths, half of which involved restaurants. One problem contributing to this high level of mortality could be that restaurants simply do not understand the severity of these allergies, or do not communicate well enough with their guests to avoid allergic reactions. For instance, some do not recognize the difference between intolerance and an allergy. While gluten intolerance may cause abdominal discomfort, it likely will not cause the same life threatening symptoms as wheat allergies like anaphylaxis and asthma attacks. (Swelling, hives, and anaphylaxis are some of the most common allergic reactions to food).

Restaurant’s Responsibility

There is still much disagreement about how much responsibility restaurants bear for their customers with food allergies. One organization proposed that all restaurants should have a “master list” of ingredients so that guests can see everything in each dish on the menu. Opponents of the proposal claim that it is unreasonable because restaurants may not be able to keep to the list and that if there is a possibility that the list is inaccurate, it is just as dangerous to customers with allergies.

Supporters of the proposal say that restaurants have an obligation to be completely honest with their customers and should be able to tell them everything that is in their dishes. According to those who hold restaurants responsible for the safety of allergic patrons, if the restaurant cannot confidently serve those patrons allergen-free dishes, they should notify guests immediately.

Benefits of Accommodating Allergic Patrons

While it may be difficult or complicated to accommodate allergic patrons, there are some benefits to putting forth the effort. First of all, the appreciation shown by allergic guests who may have previously been unable to enjoy a relaxing dinner out is simply heartwarming. Also, because the child or other family member with an allergy usually determines where a family while go out to eat, a restaurant that is able to provide allergy-safe meals will likely gain not only one, but a whole family of regular customers.

Also, people with allergies are likely to recommend a restaurant that seems to care about their limitations to others who may have issues as well. Finally, there is a possibility that in the future, being allergy-friendly may give restaurants a chance to get a break on their insurance rates.