(HealthNewsDigest.com) - Malibu - August 4, 2014 - While food service management may be an allergy accommodation program, it may never be fully instituted or fully communicated to the staff. The Model Retail Food Code, which was modified by the FDA in 2009, says that the "person in charge" of a food establishment must know and understand food allergens and make sure employees are trained on handling food allergy guests and recognize allergy symptoms.
"The first food allergy case I consulted on involved a 72 year-old man who told his server he was allergic to seafood," says Jeff Nelken MA, RD (retired), an experienced professional in all aspects of food safety and a member of the Tellem Grody PR Food Issues Group. "She recommended that he order the French fries. The restaurant was extremely busy, which means the kitchen was very busy as well. She served the fries which the customer ate. Within 10 to 15 minutes, he felt sick and went to the ER. Shortly after he arrived, he died. The cause of death was attributed to anaphylactic shock due to a seafood allergy."
Nelken says that the fries were cooked in the same oil as calamari. The restaurant had written policies in place, which stated the food for anyone with a seafood allergy was supposed to be fried in a separate pot with fresh oil. However, no one enforced or followed the rules. The restaurant never offered a clear explanation of how or why the policy was violated. "Either way," Nelken says, "the lack of communication among the staff about food allergies probably resulted in the death of this man. His family agreed to settle for $1.2 million." Nelken added that if the person had been younger, the settlement could have been considerably larger. Had the restaurant followed its established allergy program, this tragedy could have been avoided.
Major food allergens to watch out for include: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds, walnuts and pecans), soybeans, wheat, fish and shellfish (such as crab, lobster and shrimp). Gluten is also becoming a growing concern.
Some tips to manage allergy accommodation include:
"Of all the issues that a restaurant or cafeteria must deal with, allergy accommodation may not be a priority," says Nelken. "However, this can be a life threatening matter. There are roughly between 200 to 300 reported deaths due to food allergies each year. In addition, there are more than 30,000 emergency room admissions, half of which are due to foodservice-related situations."
About the Food Issues Group
Tellem Grody PR's (TGPR) Food Issues Group (FIG) offers crisis coverage for food poisonings, poor letter grades, natural disasters, sexual harassment claims and other crises. FIG pairs TGPR partner Susan Tellem, APR, RN, BSN, who has 30 years of crisis management experience with Jeff Nelken, an experienced professional in all aspects of food safety and inspection. Restaurants, theme parks, hotels, casinos, as well as corporate and school cafeterias can all benefit from FIG. For more information, visit www.tellemgrodypr.com, call 310-313-3444 x1 or email [email protected].
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