Food Allergy Q+As By Kelly Springer, MS, RD, CDN
Last week, I had the great pleasure of hosting Betsy Craig, President and Founder of MenuTrinfo, as part of my webinar series. She is the world’s leading expert on food allergies and has helped over 100,000 restaurants, schools, and workplaces protect people from food allergens and has also lead thousands of trainings about food allergens across the globe.
MenuTrinfo exists to inform food service professionals what they can safely serve to their customers.
In her opinion, food allergies is the number one health crisis we are having in this country. In fact, the number of people with food allergies increased from 15 million in 2011 to 32 million in 2019—that’s a 113 percent increase!
In her webinar, Betsy educated us on the five most common questions she gets on food allergies.
- What’s new in food allergies?
For years, the most common food allergens have been eggs, fish, tree nuts, shellfish, peanuts, soy, wheat, and dairy. There’s a new kid in town! Sesame! Effective January 2023, sesame will be added to the top food allergens in this country…bumping the number of common food allergies from eight to nine. Ninety percent of food allergies come from these nine sources.
- Why is there such an increase in food allergies?
Nobody knows for sure, but there are some theories about this increase. One theory is cooking method. For example, roasting peanuts enhances its allergenic potential as opposed to boiling peanuts. There is also a theory about the fact that we are overly hygienic as a society. Some theories revolve around the way food is grown and harvested. Another theory is the failure to introduce allergenic foods to children early in life, which can be a risky endeavor.
- What are the keys to making good choices?
When you are looking for allergen-free foods, you want to look for third-party accreditation stamps on the food packaging. MenuTrinfo has a certification seal that says Certified Free from with icons of the “Big 8,” soon to be “Big 9.”
MenuTrinfo also has a certification that can be used to identify rooms or “zones” that are allergen-free. This is seen and needed more and more in school settings, for example.
- What are some of the biggest challenges you have seen when it comes to food allergies?
One is that there are so many aliases for allergens. For example, “casein” is dairy, and “lecithin” is soy.
- How do we know that restaurants and others in the food industry are keeping those of us with food allergies safe?
There are trainings that those in the food and restaurant industry as well as schools and workplaces can take to educate their employees about food allergies. MenuTrinfo has the most comprehensive, up-to-date training called AllerTrain.
Also, some places from restaurants to sports arenas stock epinephrine in case of emergencies.
If you have additional questions about food allergies or food allergy trainings, visit www.menutrinfo.com/info or feel free to contact Betsy directly at Betsy@menutrinfo,com.