3 Points to Consider When Developing a Food Allergy Policy

After months of uncertainty the verdict finally came in, and the waiter who accidentally served salmon tartare to a guest with a severe fish allergy in Sherbrooke Quebec this past summer, is not going to be charged with criminal negligence for his wrongdoing, reports CBC. This outcome certainty brings a sigh of relief for the hospitality industry, but it also has prompted a lot of concern regarding how liable restaurants are for customers’ food allergies.

In an interview with CBC, prior to the verdict being announced, the restaurant industry warned that patrons with food allergies could have a difficult time being served in restaurants moving forward, if legal action was ensued.This situation acts as a good reminder for hospitality services to be aware of what policies they should be following regarding food allergies and cross-contamination in the kitchen, and how they can properly train staff to address food allergies and guest reactions.

Our Senior Consultant Karalyn White, who has more than 10 years in restaurant management, has an in-depth understanding of how restaurants can be better prepared to effectively handle food allergies. Karalyn mentions that 20% of restaurant preparation is in proactive staff training by Management, of both front and back of the house, to ensure both teams are aware of the policies and how to effectively communicate a guest food allergy. 80% of the training happens daily, during the situations when a guest expresses a food allergy and ensuring the team is following through on the trained procedures and policies. Karalyn believes it isn’t enough to train your staff once; food allergy procedures need to become apart of the daily routine and ingrained in the culture.

There are also three main points that restaurants should consider when developing a food allergy policy for their establishment; food education, first aid training and chef-training of safe food handling.

Food Education

Having your entire staff understand the ingredients in each dish is a critical step in food education, as it helps them to identify dishes that contain potential food allergies. When a patron advises the server of their food allergy, if properly educated on dish ingredients, they should be able to identify which dishes the guest should avoid ordering. There should be no secret ingredients in your dishes, although tempting to through off your competition, food safety is the priority and all ingredients should be staff knowledge.

Conducting impromptu testing with your staff about dish ingredients is an effective way to keep your team reminded of which dishes contain typical food allergies. Testing could include role-playing where staff act as patrons ordering, so they can understand the severity of the concern from the guests view point.

First Aid Training

Karalyn also recommends including allergy training in employee orientations, so all staff understand from day one how your business manages these situations. Once training is complete, have staff sign an Allergy Policy to prove they have been trained properly on these matters in case of emergency.

Ensuring that your establishment has one person working at all times, who is formally trained in First Aid, is extremely important to be able to effectively handle a severe guest allergic reaction. This person or persons is typically in a Management role, and their First Aid Training should be renewed every few years to ensure they are up to date on the latest first aid policies and techniques relating to restaurants operations.

Safe Food Handling

Another proactive measure is to have your entire back of the house staff properly trained on safe-food handling practices. Cross-contamination in restaurant kitchens is becoming a bigger issue as food allergies become more serious, and more guests end up in hospitals as a result. Toronto requires one kitchen staff to have formal safe-food handling training, but it is ideal to have the entire team educated on these practices for preventative measures. Your kitchen should always have one cook per shift, who has safe-food handling training.

Advising guests to share their food allergies with their servers is the first step in creating a proactive approach, and it is pretty common for restaurants today to print in their menus, “ please advise your server of any food allergies”. This helps to remind patrons that they hold some responsibility in ensuring their safety when dining out, and it also shows that your establishment takes food allergies seriously.

Contact The Fifteen Group, if you are interested in learning more about how to better train your staff to manage food allergies.

Written by Kate Engineer.


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