June 6, 2018 |

Food allergies: What you need to know

By Denise Greer

andolini's, tulsa, oklahoma, pizza, makeline

It’s a restaurant’s responsibility to protect its customers

Pizza Today’s June focus is on health and safety. It’s a good time to remind pizzeria owners of food allergy safety. Food allergies affect nearly 15 million Americans. Allergic reactions to food result in 30,000 emergency room visits, 2,000 hospitalizations and 150 deaths each year.

According to the FDA, the eight major food allergens are:

  • milk
  • eggs
  • fish
  • Crustacean shellfish
  • tree nuts
  • peanuts
  • wheat
  • soybeans

Allergic reactions may include hives; flushed skin or rash; face, tongue or lip swelling; vomiting and/or diarrhea, difficulty breathing and even loss of consciousness to name a few.

People with severe, life-threatening allergic reactions can experience constricted airways, anaphylactic shock and suffocation by swelling of the throat.

Knowledge is power and servers are on the front line to prevention. It’s not enough for the front of house staff to know a dish’s ingredients, they should also know how it’s prepared. For instance, a server explains to a customer with a nut allergy that an appetizer does not contain nuts but the server’s unaware that the item is fried in peanut oil. Mistakes happen but when the mishap occurs to an allergic customer, it could have severe, life-threatening consequences.

The Environmental Health Services, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends that restaurants:

  • Provide food allergy training for staff.
  • Use dedicated equipment and areas for preparing and cooking meals for customers with food allergies. When this is not feasible, restaurants can clean equipment and workspaces before preparing meals for customers with allergies, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code guidance.
  • Have ingredient lists or recipes for menu items available if they aren’t already.

We’ve assembled some resources for you to better understand food allergies and how a restaurant can safely serve those guests. Further readings include:


Food Allergies & Your Pizzeria: How to Prevent Cross-contamination


Menu Matters: Food Allergies


Food Safety 101


Food Allergens — FDA



How Restaurants Address Food Allergies — CDC



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