Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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"Milk pitchers, shared tongs, rinsing versus cleaning, peanut-butter residue in ramekins or on cutlery—allergens are everywhere, and having an allergy has helped me be more aware of how I am handling food and drinks in general behind the counter." —T. Benjamin Fischer "M cl e or an m o d r i A RECENT PUBLIC SERVICE announcement starring The Offi ce's Steve Carell details the dangers of food allergies. The actor, whose daughter had a severe dairy allergy before participating in an experimental trial at Stanford University, emphasized that allergens are extremely serious, can endanger the life of those affl icted, and are inexplicably on the rise. This isn't news to those who have a food allergy themselves. Ac- cording to the Food Allergy Research & Education Center (FARE), more than 15 million people in the United States have a food allergy. Researchers have identifi ed more than 170 foods that can cause an allergic reaction, which range in severity from a rash to potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis. We're talking about this here in Barista Magazine because numer- ous common allergens are found in almost every café. Out of the more than 170 reported foods that can cause allergies, eight have been iden- tifi ed as the most common: milk, eggs, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fi sh, and shellfi sh. Whether serving up lattes, pastries, milk alterna- tives, or all of the above, just about every café dabbles with a potential allergen. Given the fact that food allergens send one person in the U.S.A. to the emergency room every three minutes, it's crucial that coffee-shop staff members are expertly trained in properly accommo- dating people with allergies. In this article, we'll explore what food allergens are, and how you can eliminate the potential of cross-con- tamination to create an allergy-accommodating space. WHAT IS A FOOD ALLERGY? Food allergies are a distinct, medically defi ned category. According to FARE, "a food allergy is a medical condition in which exposure to a food triggers a harmful immune response. The immune response, called an allergic reaction, occurs because the immune system attacks proteins in the food that are normally harmless. The proteins that trigger the reaction are called allergens." Food allergies are different than intolerances or sensitivities because of the production of Immunoglobulin E (IgE), which are antibodies produced by the immune system. For those affl icted, consuming a food they're allergic to will trigger the production of IgE antibodies, which will attack proteins present in the offending food item. For some, these reactions can be mild, but for others they can be life-threatening. Food allergies are hard to diagnose because many people confuse them with food sensitivities. Alex Cannon, a food scientist for Pacifi c Foods in Portland, Ore., cites the work of Alan Goldsobel, M.D., clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and adjunct associate professor at Stanford University Medical Center. Dr. Goldsobel shared on WebMD that, "Although nearly 20 percent of adults claim they have a food allergy, studies show that only about 2 percent of adults have a true food allergy based on test results. And whereas almost 30 percent of parents say they think their child has a food allergy, the actual rates range from only 6 percent to 8 percent among children under age 6." Alex notes that the only way to truly know if you have a food allergy versus food sensitivity is to be tested, which usually involves a skin test conducted by a doctor. Although many people misdiagnose themselves with a food allergy, food allergies are on the rise. According to FARE, one in 13 children has a food allergy, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that food allergies rose 50 percent in children between 1997 to 2011, with the incidence of peanut allergies specifi cally tripling between 1997 and 2008. Anaphylaxis, which is a serious allergic reac- tion, can be triggered within minutes of being exposed to an allergen, and can only be treated with epinephrine. This is why people with severe allergies often carry EpiPens, designed to be injected into the muscle of a person with a food allergy immediately upon exposure. Considering the potentially life-ending affects of allergens, it's shocking how long it has taken manufacturers to properly identify al- lergens present in their products. It was only in 2004 that the Food Al- lergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) was passed, requiring food companies to mark allergens on packaging. And here's the kicker: They're only required to do it for those top eight allergens. Because cafés deal in products with so many potential—and com- mon—food allergens, it's important for baristas to understand how to best serve customers with food allergies, how cross-contamination oc- curs, and how to talk to customers and coworkers in order to identify allergies and protect people from dangerous reactions. ALLERGIES IN THE CAFÉ At a restaurant recently, my server asked if there were any food allergies they should be aware of from those seated at my table. They asked this after taking our order. For Liz Dean, senior manager of training for the coworking space The Wing, this practice is common. "At The Wing, we train our staff to ask members, 'Do you have any dietary restrictions or allergens that we should be aware of?' when they are placing orders," she says. "We've programmed Square with allergy buttons so that if a staff member can't remember if a certain dish has, say, dairy in it, they can press [the] 'dairy allergy' [button] and the kitchen will be alerted and can take whatever precautions they need to, or alert the counter if the allergy accommodation cannot be made." With locations in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and be- yond, The Wing prides itself on accommodating not just food allergies, but any sort of dietary restriction. "We have codes listed on our menu 78 barista magazine

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