by Betsy Craig, CEO of MenuTrinfo®

Milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, fish, crustaceans, wheat and eggs—these are the top or “big” eight allergens recognized by the FDA in the US. While there are more than 170 foods that have been reported to cause allergic reactions, these eight foods cause 90% of the food allergic reactions among the 15 million Americans living with food allergies. For people under the age of 18, the most common are peanuts and milk. Food allergic reactions result in uncomfortable symptoms and may even lead to fatal anaphylactic shock.

Keeping in mind that 1 in 13 children has a food allergy and every 3 minutes someone goes to the ER because of a food allergic reaction. These staggering stats explain why the demand for allergy-free food options is increasing significantly. The diner with the food allergy often dictates where a party will choose to eat– a place where they trust, eat safely and have options.  As a food service operation, how do you create options for those diners who are allergic to such common ingredients?

A good strategy is to focus on foods the allergic diner can eat instead of focusing on what they cannot eat. Use the following 5 tips to create your allergy-friendly menu choices your consumers will enjoy and feel safe eating.

  1. Keep it interesting and fresh. Try outa iSi gourmet whipper for the preparation of light and fluffy Espumas (foamed food), finger foods, sauces, whipped soups, and desserts. A whipper can be used for both cold and hot preparations and allows you to create a unique and exciting allergy friendly meal.
  2. Think outside the box when it comes to appetizers. Food service establishments generally only have one fryer. This means the foods containing gluten and allergens share the same oil as foods free from allergens, which creates a cross-contact problem. Bake, grill or roast fresh vegetables for an allergy-friendly flavorful appetizer. Join the cauliflower craze and offer roasted cauliflower in a variety of different flavored sauces and rubs to substitute other fried favorites. Get creative and have fun!
  3. Substitute traditional soy sauce for certified gluten free soy sauce such as coconut aminos. Coconut aminos are made from just two ingredients – coconut tree sap and salt. It’s great for both a gluten and soy free alternative.While coconut allergies are rare, disclosing the presence of tree nuts or any of the top eight allergens is considered a best practice.
  4. Make your salad dressings in-house. Many processed salad dressings typically contain soy as an ingredient to get a creamy texture. Balance a base such as olive oil or pureed avocado with an acid like apple cider vinegar or lemon. Then throw in some fresh herbs or spices for flavor.
  5. Use ingredients that are naturally allergy-friendly. Use olive oil instead of butter. Choose naturally gluten-free grains such as rice, quinoa, or millet. When substituting meat consider using lentils, peas, or beans. Be aware tofu and tempeh are made from soybeans and seitan is made from gluten.

Need help? Allow MenuTrinfo® to review your menu for allergens and gluten so you can be ensured allergens are properly identified and labeled for your guests. Ask about our AllerTrain™ suite of courses to train your staff to be allergen aware and reduce the risk of cross-contact. Or better yet, have a Kitchens with Confidence™ auditor review your procedures from loading dock to table top to see if you have the policies in place to prevent cross-contact from occurring in the first place.