Even in this new landscape where hospitality is beginning to understand how pervasive dietary restrictions are, these three misconceptions are ones that stubbornly hang in there and could result in costly, dangerous consequences for your company and guests.
1. You need to eat a lot to have a reaction.
This is simply not true. Depending on the type of allergy and severity, even the vapour from a boiling pot can trigger an anaphylactic reaction (e.g. peanut, seafood) for some people.
Your staff are not practicing medical doctors or allergists and need to be reminded that the anecdotal article they have just read is not the translate to allergen expertise. Their assumed knowledge puts everyone at risk.
Teach your staff when they hear the word ‘allergy’ to park all preconceived notions they might have about what they think they know and use all safety precautions adopted by the company.
*Note: OIT (Oral Immunotherapy) is medically supervised supervised exposure therapy that is not always successful. It is important that staff do not misinterpret the purpose and limitations of this type of therapy.
2. Gluten = Not Serious
Yes, there has been a weight loss, “health” fad aspect to this dietary trend. It has been a double-edged sword for the gluten-free community.
On the one hand it has raised awareness and increased food options for those with celiac disease, on the other it has created a backlash of intolerance. Creating dangerous assumptions that everyone who orders from a gluten-free menu is following a pretentious, eye-rolling, Hollywood-fad diet.
This leads to a distinct absence of following safety protocols. Why go through the effort of using safe serving practices if it is not serious?
The reality is that the person could have celiac disease, a severe intolerance to gluten, undiagnosed celiac disease or even a wheat allergy. This consumer group is larger than the one percent of population thought to have celiac disease. Many of these guests a reaction to gluten means illness, a trip to the hospital or even anaphylaxis.
It’s not worth the risk to assume that a guest’s gluten-free order is a simple dietary preference unless they disclose this to staff.
3. High Heat Kills Everything
Foodservice staff often confuse bacteria with allergens, thinking the same food safety principles apply.
They do not.
Allergen proteins cannot be reliably destroyed by high heat (mostly). This misconception most often persists regarding deep frying.
Staff will think it is ok to fry safe and unsafe ingredients in the same fryer because the intense heat will ‘kill off’ the allergen.
It does not.
The allergen can remain present in unchanged oil even if it is not being used to cook.
Take the example of fish and chips. Battered fish is fried first then removed. French fries are cooked separately but still using the same oil to fry the fish. Since, allergen proteins are not destroyed, they are still lurking in the oil when cooking the fries.
If the fries were served to anyone who has celiac disease, wheat allergy, fish allergy they could have a reaction, even a potentially life-threatening one.