Food Allergy Overview: How to Keep Your Customers Safe

Food allergy - Understanding and Accommodating Customers

ServSafe is dedicated to helping food service employees keep customers safe – and that includes keeping them safe from food allergies. With one in 13 children in the U.S. having a food allergy and up to 15 million Americans overall, it’s important to understand food allergies and their effects on people. By understanding the basics of food allergies and taking steps to understand and accommodate customers with food allergies, you can help ensure the safety of all your customers.

What is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy is a medical condition in which your body has an extreme reaction when you eat a certain food. When you ingest an allergenic food, your body mistakes it for a substance it needs to fight off and releases chemicals, such as histamines, to fight off the allergen. This response can cause a range of symptoms from mild to severe, such as hives, rashes, nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, and even anaphylaxis.

What Foods Trigger Allergies?

The most common food allergens are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. Less commonly, fruits, vegetables, and even spices and flavorings can also trigger allergic reactions in people.

It’s important to remember that food allergies can be very serious and even life-threatening. For example, eight foods account for 90% of all food allergies: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.

Developing an Allergen Awareness Plan

By understanding the basics of food allergies, taking steps to understand and accommodate customers with food allergies, you can help ensure the safety of all your customers. To do this, you can develop an allergen awareness plan to help protect customers and staff. Some steps to consider include:

  • Educating all employees and managers on food allergens and their impact on customers. This includes understanding how to safely prepare and serve food to be free from allergens.
  • Training staff on how to safely clean and sanitize food surfaces and equipment to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Implementing an allergen-safe protocol for ordering, preparing, and serving food.
  • Communicating with customers, including informing them of ingredients and possible cross-contamination risks.
  • Keeping detailed records of allergies, ingredients, and other information related to customer orders.

Why ServSafe Certifications Matter ?

It is important to remember that food allergies can be very serious, life-threatening, and could even lead to a lawsuit. All this is why Food Managers, who work in restaurants or in any food industry, must have an up-to-date ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification.

ServSafe is dedicated to helping Food Managers keep customers and staff safe. The ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification ensures that Food Managers are informed on a wide range of topics, including food allergens, purchasing food from reliable sources, cross-contamination management, how to handle customers with food allergies, and more.

By having a ServSafe certification, Food Managers have the knowledge and understanding to create an atmosphere of safety to protect customers and staff members who have food allergies. Without this certification, Food Managers are not legally allowed to manage food establishments in almost all states and every food establishment needs to have certified Food Manager on site.


Food allergies can have a significant impact on the health of your customers and staff. It is essential for Food Managers to understand food allergies and to have a ServSafe certification in order to confidently manage a safe food environment. With knowledge and understanding of food allergies, proper allergen education, and an allergen awareness plan in place, you’ll be able to keep customers and staff safe from the serious effects of food allergies.

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