Food allergy is on the rise. Due to this, consumers are becoming more aware and discerning with regard to the food they buy and eat. Which is why mobile food vendors should consider food allergy as a top priority not just to eliminate risks for the business but most importantly, to protect the health of customers.
Facts Worth Knowing
According to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food allergies among children have increased 50% between 1997 to 2011. In the United States, as many as 15 million people (nearly 9 million adults and around 6 million children) have food allergies.
Severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can be life-threatening. Each year, an estimated 30,000 emergency room treatment, 2,000 hospitalizations, and 150 deaths resulted due to anaphylaxis in the US.
The economic cost of children’s food allergies is around $25 billion per year.
Major Food Allergens
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Act of 2004 (FALCPA) lists eight major food allergens:
- Fish (e.g. bass, flounder, cod)
- Crustacean shellfish (e.g. crab, lobster, shrimp)
- Tree nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, pecans)
These major food allergens (and any ingredients containing protein derived from them) account for over 90 percent of all documented food allergies in the U.S. and represent food items most likely to result in severe or life-threatening reactions.
Food truck operators and employees should understand the importance of being allergy aware. Using a system to make sure customers are protected against allergens will not just prevent health risks and legal issues but also help give your business a positive image.
Here are some tips to make your food truck allergy aware.
- Make it a policy to ask customers for any allergies upon ordering. Or put signs that list the ingredients your food truck use to inform people and remind them to disclose if they are allergic to such ingredients. It may be law to post a sign asking customer if they have any food allergies – check with your local health department.
- Implement a food preparation system that prevents cross-contact contamination. Using different utensils for each ingredient, cleaning tools properly, frequent hand washing or use or gloves, and labeling containers are some ways to eliminate cross-contact of allergens to other products.
- Never make assumptions about ingredients that are derived from other products. Some processed foods, like chopped nuts or canned products, may contain traces of other ingredients because they were processed in the same production line. Always read package labels of ingredients to make sure they do not contain food allergen derivatives.
- Modify recipes to offer product variations or let customers have the choice to substitute ingredients. Instead of turning a customer away because of a food allergen, give them a “personalized option” that substitutes the ingredient they can’t eat without sacrificing quality or flavor. Offering choices or ability to substitute not only prevent lost of sale but can also improve your business image.
Food allergies should become a priority to mobile food vendors, to safeguard customers and also push business growth. Food trucks and the mobile food industry as a whole will have the highest possibility of success if great tasting products are available and can be enjoyed by everyone.