Restaurants: Provide Allergy Info to Protect Customers and Your Business


More and more, food allergies are becoming a big issue. As it is now, around 15 million people have a food allergy, and this number is growing. The CDC is reporting an 18 percent increase in food allergies from 1997–2007, and the prevalence of peanut allergies among children tripled in that same time period.

These 8 foods account for 90 percent of all food allergies:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts: walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Shellfish: crab, crayfish, lobster, shrimp

With so many people having food allergies, it’s important to properly disclose what foods have allergens. Commercially packaged products are required to disclose allergens, but what about restaurants?

Most allergic reactions happen in restaurants because either the customer didn’t properly alert the restaurant of his or her allergy or the restaurant didn’t properly inform the customer of certain allergens in the food. This shouldn’t happen either way.

The debate on whether restaurants should properly disclose food allergies has been going on for more than 25 years. More and more consumers are choosing to eat in establishments that either provide specific menu items free of allergens or provide detailed information on the allergens present. Check out what’s going on in Virginia.

What Are Restaurants Required to Do?

The 2009 FDA Food Code requires the person in charge of a restaurant to train staff on allergy awareness, but that’s as far as the FDA will go. Individual states are stepping in to require restaurants to take more responsibility. Two years ago, Massachusetts became the first state to do so. Managers are required to get a special certification and the restaurant has to provide all customers with allergy information about the food. More states will eventually follow.

Even though the FDA has yet to require allergen labeling for restaurants, consumer demand has driven the restaurant industry to proactively provide this information. Many chain restaurants have already made the switch. Chili’s, Texas Roadhouse, Chipotle, Burger King and many others provide detailed allergy information. Eventually, it will trickle down to the independent restaurant operations.

Why It’s a Good Idea to Provide Info on Food Allergens

It’s in the best interest of restaurants to provide as much information as possible about food allergens in their kitchens. Texas Roadhouse does a great job of informing its customers about allergens. Even at the front door, this restaurant publicly discloses a peanut danger, making it an easy decision for parents with children who have a peanut allergy not to enter. By providing this information, not only is the restaurant protecting its customers, but it’s also protecting itself. A restaurant that doesn’t provide proper allergy information relies heavily on its staff to make quick decisions during service when informed of a customer’s allergy. Do all servers really know every ingredient in every dish? Probably not. Serving food that can cause an allergic reaction to a customer, after the customer informs the restaurant of the allergy, can result in a lawsuit and personal injury to the customer.

With allergies becoming more and more prevalent in our communities and with the consequences potentially fatal, restaurants should be thinking about providing menu items free of allergens and detailed information on menu items that contain allergens. Eventually, it will be required, so why not start now?

For Parents Looking for Safe Places to Eat

Peanut Allergy Kid

Allergy Eats

For Restaurant Owners and Managers

Restaurant Central

Restaurant Allergy Information Apps

Food Allergy

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