Does your food business serve or sell eggs, fish, gluten, milk, nuts, and shellfish? These foods may seem “innocent” but can actually hurt your business if you don’t address the food allergy needs of your customers.
According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), Australia is being considered as one of the countries in the world with the highest food allergy rates, and this number continues to increase each year worldwide.
Usually, when people with food allergies eat out, they rely on food businesses to provide accurate information about the ingredients in their menu items. With this, they will be able to make informed decisions about what they should order. If given inaccurate and insufficient information, their health may be at risk and, in worst case scenarios, their lives as well.
The good thing is that it only takes a few extra minutes to handle special requests or entertain questions from your customers. This can help avoid dangerous situations and can improve your customer’s impression of your business. Soon enough, they’ll become your loyal customers.
The lingering question is: how can you prevent your food business from unintentionally alienating or harming customers who have allergy issues? Here are quick Food Safety Supervisor NSW guide in managing allergy risks to protect customers from certain ingredients that cause them to have a reaction.
Make familiar with food allergies
One of the common mistakes food businesses make is confusing intolerance with an allergy. Keep in mind that intolerances are less severe and only involve the digestive system while food allergies can be very bad as they involve the immune system. Staff serving food should remember this difference – that food allergies are not food preferences but are allergic disorders.
A food allergy can happen when a person’s immune system reacts to a foreign substance. Usually, it’s a protein that is breathed, eaten, or touched. Alarmingly, people who have allergies can be in danger and may undergo a life-threatening condition they call anaphylactic shock. This occurs when they consume products containing the allergen (even a minimal amount).
Signs that someone has an allergic reaction. Once a person eats food he or she is allergic to, the reaction may flow through the body, causing physical symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat, abdominal cramps, difficulty in breathing, and hives.
Signs that someone is experiencing anaphylactic shock. When anaphylaxis occurs, a person’s airways will begin to swell and tighten, making it nearly impossible for them to breathe. Other symptoms include chest tightening, dizziness, facial swelling, gastrointestinal problems, heart palpitations, and severe anxiety.
Food safety plan
One way to minimise risks for customers is to integrate allergy risk prevention into the Food Safety Plan. Involved in it is a written plan for handling customers with food allergies that the staff must follow. Assign someone who will respond to questions from customers regarding the menu, who will check the ingredients and note any that contain allergens in the menu. There must be members of staff who know how to handle someone having an allergic reaction if it occurs, etc.
The key to safely serve customers who have food allergies is cooperation. The staff (customer service staff and the food staff), including the managers and the Food Safety Supervisor NSW, must learn about the issues surrounding food allergies and how to answer customers’ questions properly.
For Food Safety Supervisors, it is their responsibility to become familiar with menu-item ingredients and food allergies, especially when faced with questions from a customer. This way, they can inform the staff preparing the food about the allergies, if there are any, and take the necessary steps to avoid cross-contamination with the allergen carefully.
It is the initiative of Food Safety Supervisors to train the staff about the proper ways of dealing with requests from customers with food allergies. Also, the staff who handle food must prepare food for an allergy-prone customer from other meals that may contain allergens, with different plates, knives, and trays, so that the food of a customer doesn’t come in contact with other food that may trigger the disorder.
Know that whenever a customer feels that their needs are well looked after, they will return to your food business again and again.