Campus Dining and Allergies at Wesleyan University
Many of our patrons have expressed a desire to have all food items labeled with all ingredients. A common misconception is that labeling creates a safer eating environment when in reality it does not. Individuals assume the label is always 100% accurate and stop asking questions. Therefore we use the following protocol to guide how we work with our clients on their allergy dining concerns.
Our protocol is based on the “Food Allergy Training Guide for College and University Food Services” by the leading experts at the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). A copy of this guide may be viewed at http://www.foodallergy.org/files/College_Training_Food_Services.pdf
Labeling can be complicated - many dishes are currently identified with color coded icons that indicate specific designations (vegan, vegetarian, made without gluten etc) as well as named using a common recipe name (ex. chicken cordon bleu). Our protocol includes naming foods as clearly as possible to avoid confusion. For example a walnut brownie vs. chocolate brownie, pinenut pesto vs. pesto or shrimp alfredo vs. pasta alfredo. As allergens that are most likely to cause severe reactions, nuts and shellfish are always labeled within the name of the menu item, for other items we would never be able to accurately capture all subingredients and so we do not provide all ingredients on station signage
We do not utilize the terminology “free” (i.e. nut-free, wheat-free) as there is a common misunderstanding that all café items have been thoroughly screened and those are the only items that are “free” which could be misleading.. .
The FAAN guide, states that food services be able to communicate ingredients upon request. Our biggest focus in meeting this commitment is accuracy. To ensure accuracy, it is important to understand that our kitchens operate a “from scratch” model versus an “out of the box” model that is used in most K-12 school kitchens. Our open kitchens perform scratch cooking at each meal without standardized recipes and with products that potentially come from 1000+ different vendors nationwide. Similar menu items are often different each time they are served based on seasonal and local availability of ingredients and our chefs often adjust menu items up until the point of service for flavor and quality standards and vendors change formulations frequently without notification. Restaurants are also different even though they tend to be from scratch as well. Most restaurants are able to individualize meals and cook meals at a much lower volume; we average over 800 meals per lunch and per dinner. In our system, the most accurate information will always come from the designated person in charge who can communicate the exact items that were actually used in preparation of that item that meal. This individual will NOT be the person serving; there are always manager/chefs on the floor available to help anyone with an ingredient question.
Key Components of the Bon Appétit management of allergens include:
- Allergen Awareness Training for all staff
- Ingredient questions directed to proper person
- Signage to guest
- Signage for staff
- Accurate menu nomenclature
- Individual communication with guests
We also recommend:
- Guests with food allergies meet with onsite manager/chef and refer to Resident Director
- Servers refer ingredient questions to the designated person in charge
- When in doubt, direct to another selection
- Maintain individual communication
With regard to menu planning and nomenclature, Bon Appétit:
- Discourages use of allergens in unexpected places
- Does not use peanut oil
- Use of allergen in menu name
- We avoid “this item contains _____”
- We will show products to guests when requested
- For better understanding we have shifted to the term “cross-contact”
- We always want guest to ask questions vs. make assumptions from signage
Of course those using our dining facilities need to be aware that the labeling that is provided, is to the best of our knowledge, accurate. However vendors and products may change ingredients without our knowledge and therefore if an individual has any reason to question the ingredients they should ask the Bon Appétit server to verify ingredients. The server may not know the immediate answer but there is always a member of the management team present at every meal and available for consultation. We always recommend personal interaction with our Bon Appétit management staff. It is faster and more specific information can be shared. Students have indicated to us that the personal approach helps them choose their food with confidence and feel like they get better information this way. The best and safest environment is a result of a joint effort between the food service provider and the guest with food allergies.