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 customers 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 Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). A copy of this guide may be viewed at http://www.foodallergy.org/document.doc?id=137
At Wesleyan, our 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 menu name (ex. chicken cordon bleu). Our protocol includes naming foods as clearly as possible to avoid confusion. (ie. walnut brownie vs. chocolate brownie, pinenut pesto vs. pesto, or shrimp alfredo vs. pasta alfredo). As the major 8 allergens that are most likely to cause severe reactions, are labeled within the name of the menu item, other items are not as we would be unable to accurately capture all sub ingredients.
In addition, 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 FARE 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 “cook 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 from different vendors nationwide whom may change formulations frequently without notification. Similar menu items are often different each time they are served based on seasonal and local availability of ingredients.
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 managers and/or chefs on the floor available to help anyone with an ingredient question.
Key Components of the Bon Appétit management of allergens include:
- Allergen Awareness and Celiac Disease Training for all staff
- Ingredient questions directed to a dining or chef manager
- Signage to guests and 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
- Will use major allergens in the 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 guests to ask questions vs. make assumptions from signage
Of course those using our dining facilities need to be aware that the menu nomenclature that is provided is accurate to the best of our knowledge. However, vendors and products may change ingredients without our knowledge. We always recommend personal interaction with our Bon Appétit management staff as 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.
For more information about Food Allergy Research and Education, formerly the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) please visit: http://www.foodallergy.org