Allergies and intolerances. Whether the incidence is actually increasing, or we as society are simply becoming more aware of food allergy and intolerance as a whole, is undecided in the literature. What I have noticed is the increasing number of my clients who are struggling to eat away from home, without being contaminated.
A few weeks ago, a mother of a child I see with coeliac disease was telling me about an experience in a local restaurant where she was told the food was gluten free, only to watch them make her child's food on the same chopping board that had just had gluten containing bread rolls on it. Or the multitude of stories I hear every week about the struggles people on a low fodmap diet have with eating out (admittedly, this can be challenging regardless). Or being asked 'what's wrong with meringue?' to a person with an egg allergy...
An interesting new study landed in my inbox this week, looking at the knowledge of café and restaurant managers and their ability to provide safe food to customers. Of the 124 participants, only 13% provided correct responses to all knowledge items. However, 93% were very confident they could provide a safe meal to food allergic consumers. Only 25% of respondents had done any past training in food allergy management, but of those who had, they were more likely to have plans in place to ensure a safe meal would be able to be provided. 65% actually had recipe cards so allergens could be checked.
Given how frustrating and unsafe it can be, and how quickly a wonderful meal can be destroyed when staff don't take dietary considerations into account, as the study states, 'For robust consumer protection, it is suggested that training be incorporated into the registration requirements for food establishments'.
I think that this could be a great idea.
Ref: Wham, C. A. and Sharma, K. M. (2014), Knowledge of café and restaurant managers to provide a safe meal to food allergic consumers. Nutrition & Dietetics, 71: 265–269. doi: 10.1111/1747-0080.12104
Chloe McLeod is a dietitian at BJC Health.
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