Illinois mandating food-allergen training, who's next?

| by Betsy Craig
Illinois mandating food-allergen training, who's next?

Illinois is implementing a state law requiring restaurants and food service establishments to provide food allergen training for their staff. This law, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, states that managers must be trained in food allergen awareness within 30 days of their hire dates. Also, during business hours, the law requires there to be at least one employee, who has received the allergy training, working onsite.

We can look at the regulation in Illinois as a way for foodservice professionals to live intentionally when serving guests. Educating team members allows restaurateurs to connect with their employees in a way that increases their value and strengthens their trust in the company. 

Food allergies are on the rise, and restaurant professionals are being asked on a daily basis what each item on their menu includes. The strong focus on food allergies and intolerances today has put pressure on restaurant managers, owners and operators to train their staff and offer allergy-free food options to accommodate every diner. Trust emerges when customers believe the restaurant they are dining in has taken appropriate measures to ensure their safety. Restaurants who take the time to accommodate food allergies are left with are repeat customers and an organic source of referrals.

Training is important within all areas of the kitchen and front of house staff. When an employee feels confident in serving a guest with peanut allergies, it helps to relieve worry that customers have AND that owners and managers have. Illinois is not the first, and certainly not the last, to make food allergy training mandatory and those with food allergies are feeling triumphant that they live in a state that is a leader in the allergen world.

Similar to the menu-labeling area of government regulations, there has been a huge uptick of mandates and laws for food allergy training. Unfortunately, no two laws are exactly the same, and there is some (but not much) general crossover of who is to be trained, how, when and for how long.   

For example, Massachusetts was the first to require training, taking a 12-year-old video and editing it for implementation across the state.  Rhode Island came on the heels of Massachusetts with similar requirements, but again many don't believe watching a video and clicking a box is authentic training. These videos count as education but training should be more interactive. Michigan, Montgomery County, Maryland, and now Illinois all have specific laws and mandates in place. It will not be long before the rest of the country follows suit.

Interestingly enough, similar to menu labeling, many of the forward-thinking brands and concepts have already begun to require food allergen training. They know that it is a smart business move to be able to safely serve the one in 10 clients asking for recipe modifications for medical needs. 

Foodservice professionals in Illinois (and around America) who want to be ahead of the curve and train their team members should take the time to look over their class options. For those looking for answers now, your diners will thank you and your staff will feel valued. Once you have won over a guest with a food allergy through care, respect and service, you have won over a community of loyal diners who will return to your establishment for years to come.

Cover photo: iStock



Topics: Health & Nutrition

Betsy Craig
Betsy Craig brings 20 years of food service industry experience to MenuTrinfo, LLC a menu nutritional labeling Company. Her commitment to the betterment of the food industry and her desire to affect the dining public are the driving forces behind her new company Kitchens with Confidence, LLC. wwwView Betsy Craig's profile on LinkedIn

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