Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Online allergens training to assist restaurants in serving guests safely

Just two weeks following the National Restaurant Association (NRA) launch of the online course ServSafe Allergens and one day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced requirements restaurants and food manufacturers who market food and beverages as “gluten free” must adhere to, Beckee Moreland led a session at the Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO in New Orleans about the same thing.

Moreland, the director of Gluten-Free Industry Initiatives for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, was in New Orleans exhibiting and hosting the Idea Zone Session, Top 5 myths restaurant should know about gluten-free menus. The myths include: gluten-free is a fad; if it doesn’t say wheat it’s safe; gluten-free foods taste like paste; gluten can be burned off on the grill, and you just need a chef who knows gluten-free requirements.

ServSafe Allergens online training is now available to assist restaurateurs
serve customers with food allergies safely.
Also, at the EXPO, the NRA team promoted ServSafe Allergens online, an interactive course which is designed to help restaurants capitalize on the 15 million Americans with food allegories, gluten among them. The online course covers such topics as identifying allergens, communication with the guest, preventing cross-contact, food labels and more.
During EXPO weekend, gluten-sensitive Angela Schuster, Regional Manager for NRA Solutions had the perfect opportunity in a New Orleans restaurant to educate the staff on why ServSafe Allergens training could benefit the restaurant and importantly, its patrons.
“I couldn’t have planned what happened better if I wrote the script,” said Schuster. “Seated at the bar for dinner, the bartender couldn’t tell me if bourbon was gluten-free as I reviewed the cocktail menu and the entrĂ©e I ordered had the starch substituted but that was not explained. When I asked what my starch options were that didn’t contain gluten, I was told the French fries and the risotto.”
She opted for the risotto and a few moments later, French fries emerged and the chef said, “Sorry, there’s flour in the risotto, but I brought you some of our hand-cut fries and our special malt vinegar aioli. She paused, feeling the situation was now getting beyond belief and informed him that gluten does not just refer to wheat, but rye and barley too. Malt vinegar is made from barley.
“The staff was so apologetic and embarrassed, and it made me feel terrible having to go to such lengths to make sure I didn’t get sick as a result of dining there,” said Schuster. “I did use the opportunity, albeit awkward, to share why it’s important for the entire staff to be trained in ServSafe Allergens.”
Many Louisiana restaurants she’s dined in, particularly those that scratch make most of their dishes, have easily accommodated her in the past. However, this summer she ate a well-known seafood restaurant in the French Quarter that brought her soy sauce laden tuna tartare, which the server and manager assured her was gluten-free. As a result of trusting them, she ended up sick. While there is gluten-free soy sauces, this particular soy sauce contained wheat.
September is National Food Safety Month and this year’s theme is “Avoid a Reaction by Taking Action,” centered around the need for more food allergy training in the restaurant industry and based on the ServSafe Allergens curriculum. 
The FDA has now added, “gluten-free” to the list of FDA-regulated claims and the new, standardized definition is expected to help up to 3 million Americans who have celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive condition that can be effectively managed only by eating a “gluten free” diet.
Foods that contain gluten trigger production of antibodies that attack and damage the lining of the small intestine. That damage limits the ability of celiac disease patients to absorb nutrients and puts them at risk of other health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, growth retardation, infertility, miscarriages, short stature and intestinal cancers.
“Restaurants will be well-served to ensure they comply with FDA-defined claims,” said Dr. Joy Dubost, the NRA’s director of nutrition. “Working closely with suppliers is an important first step in developing menu options that qualify for gluten-free claims. If you are making gluten-free claims about any menu items, ask your suppliers to ensure they are providing grains or food components that comply with the new rule.”
According to the FDA final rule:
·         Foods that inherently do not contain gluten, such as raw carrots or grapefruit juice, may use the “gluten-free” claim.
·         Foods with any whole, gluten-containing grains, like spelt wheat, as ingredients may not use the claim.
·         Foods with ingredients that are gluten-containing grains that are refined, but still contain gluten, such as wheat flour, may not use the claim, but
·         Foods with ingredients that are gluten-containing grains that have been refined in such a way to remove the gluten, like wheat starch, may use the claim, as long as the food contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten, or has less than 20 milligrams of gluten per kilogram.

For more information about ServSafe Allergens online training visit

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