Dining out with food allergies has always been a scary task. Even when restaurants and food service establishments take extreme measures to keep diners safe, accidents can still happen. It’s even more scary when you are dining somewhere that doesn’t seem to be paying attention to allergies at all. Back in March of 2020 when COVID-19 hit, the food service industry changed overnight. Food safety procedures became incredibly important to protect folks from the virus. This in turn made dining out safer for those with food allergies.

How food safety procedures changed

The protocol for food safety due to the coronavirus is almost identical to the protocol for keeping diners with food allergies safe. Extra preparation goes into packaging food for takeout and delivery and food service workers are taking more extreme measures to stay covered and safe. At Kitchens with Confidence, we have been auditing university dining programs and food service manufacturers across the nation. Lately we have seen a bigger increase in the amount of care and attention to food safety in 2020 than ever before. 

Some things we have noticed include:

  • More frequent sanitation: in the food allergy training world we preach the importance of sanitation and proper cleaning of tables. Even a trace amount of an allergen can cause a reaction so being extra cautious is always a good idea. Now with COVID, those who are serving food are sanitizing stations, tables and frequently touched surfaces much more often. 
  • Elimination of self-service: diners suffering with food allergies have always been wary of the self-serve lines. It’s incredibly easy for cross contact to happen when there is no one managing a station. Since the start of COVID, many of these self-service areas now have a team member who serves the guest. Having a dedicated person there helps eliminate a lot of the cross-contact risks.
  • Beverage stations have attendants: many stations serving beverages now have attendants who serve guests which helps eliminate cross-contact with milk/ dairy products. Other food service establishments have gotten rid of beverage stations all together. They are choosing to simply serve bottled and canned beverages only instead. 
  • Employee health is mandated: we have never before required that employees’ temperatures be taken upon arrival. Due to COVID it’s now imperative that they are healthy prior to serving customers. The usage of gloves has gone up, employees are wearing masks which eliminates the spread of many germs and managers are checking temperatures upon arrival. All of these things lead to better food safety procedures overall. 

What additional changes you can adapt from food allergy safety practices

Adapting food allergy protocols into your program can give you an extra layer of protection from COVID. Some additional food allergy safety tips we recommend in our trainings include using a separate preparation station for items with food allergies, adding a section on your app or online ordering system for people to identify their food allergies and package foods that are free from the top 8 allergens in a separate area. Going above and beyond to take care of guests during COVID has done wonders for keeping diners with food allergies safe. We look forward to seeing how these newly adapted practices become standards in the industry.