Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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81 tributes an extensive line of food products ranging from chicken broth to seitan to baked beans. In fact, its offerings are so far-reaching that being extra diligent in preventing cross-contamination is rule number one. "We have a robust labeling, storage, and segregation program for when we bring allergens into the facility; we also have a very strict cleaning protocol when going from a product with an allergen to a product without an allergen," Alex says. "We also do allergen testing on the fi nished products to ensure no undeclared allergens are present, and we do validation studies to ensure our cleaning system is actually getting rid of any allergens." Although Pacifi c makes a number of plant-based beverages that are free of common allergens, they do not necessarily make them because of allergy concerns. Instead, they're responding to customers making a choice—as opposed to following a medical restriction—to have soy or rice in their cappuccino, instead of cow's milk. However, with more and more people exhibiting allergies, Alex says Pacifi c's modus operandi could change. "We tend to go where the trends take us, allergens or no. Oats are inherently gluten-free but at very high risk of cross-contam- ination, whereas spelt is a variety of wheat and therefore inherently contains gluten, so they are sort of on opposite ends of the spectrum." So what does the future look like as far as allergens in cafés go? Alex believes that extensive labeling is key because anything could be a potential allergen. "In terms of food science addressing allergen concerns, our best solution is to label as transparently as possible and provide a breadth of alternatives to the allergen in question, keeping in mind that we may be offering yet another type of allergen," she says. "For example, soy—which is an allergen—was one of the fi rst alterna- tives to dairy—another allergen. However, when soy's popularity was on the decline, almond took its place, which is also another allergen. In the meantime coconut and cashew have become popular, but they are both allergens, as well. It's unlikely that someone would suffer from a dairy, soy, almond, coconut, and cashew allergy—but it isn't unheard of." FARE's website notes that of children with diagnosed food allergies, 30 percent of them are allergic to more than one food. There is no cure for an allergy other than to avoid the food in question, although there are experimental trials, like the one Steve Carell's daughter went through at Stanford, which are designed to gather research to use in managing how the body reacts to allergens. Scientists have theorized about why allergens occur and why they're on the rise—some say that we're too clean and children aren't being exposed to enough bacteria to build up their immune systems. Others point to countries like Israel, where children eat a peanut snack called Bamba and peanut allergies are comparatively low. Still others say climate change is part of the reason for an increase in food allergies. Until there's a solution, however—and don't hold your breath that it'll happen in your lifetime—be mindful of the cleaning and service sys- tems in place in your café. As T. Ben says, a careful eye to proper food handling can transform a one-time purchase into a lifelong loyalty. On the fl ip side, realize that you'll never be able to accommodate everyone's particular allergens, so transparency and safe handling are as much as anyone can ask for. Almost 90 percent of the population is allergic to one of the "big eight" allergens, and there are strategies for accommodating everyone. "For someone avoiding all of these aller- gens, there are rice products on the market, and rice is not considered one of the 'big eight' allergens so it provides what some consider an 'allergen-free' alternative. However there are still people out there that are allergic to rice, so it's nearly impossible to provide a truly allergen-free product," Alex says. Water, anyone?

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