Tag Archives: critical

AllergyEats | Defining allergy-friendly restaurant survey results


So, a while ago I posted asking for you to help out Paul from Allergy Eats with defining “allergy-friendly” as it pertains to a restaurant.  I also took the time to post my own thoughts before I sent them on to be tabulated.

Well, now Paul has posted his summary & survey results to the still mysterious government body.  I enjoyed reading the results, so I thought I’d share:

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The AllergyEats Blog | How do we define an allergy-friendly restaurant? A look at the survey results

It’s great to see the results, and I can’t wait to see where & how they’re put to use.  It’s also great that all of our comments were passed along with the report, so rest assured that your voice has been heard thanks to Paul.  Hopefully it lays groundwork for more gub’ment organizations to follow by example!  (Although, we need to push from a consumer level too.)

My take on the results… it looks like we’re all looking for everyone in the restaurant from kitchen to wait staff to managers to be trained in food allergies and cross-contamination and possibly even certified… which seems like a no-brainer.  Even if that’s all we get, it’s a great start.

Employee answering phone needs to be knowledgeable: 1

Apparently, I’m the only one who wants the person answering the phone to know what they’re talking about.  Ha ha.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to define shellfish on the phone, or ask if they have any only to get there after being told no… and they totally do.  Perhaps it’s shame on me for not asking to talk to a manager…  but the person answering the phone ought to be knowledgeable enough to hand-off such questions, so I stand by my statement.

Cross contamination: (42 responses)

Understands and avoids cross-contamination:  21

Separate and cleaned prep areas and cookware:  20

Should wash hands:  1

Who said they should wash their hands?  Seriously?  I hope they’re doing that anyway… and that they don’t really need those signs in the restroom as a reminder.

Treats ALL allergies the same, not just the Big 8: 1

Apparently I’m the lone theorist there.  Really?  Well, I’m in the Top 8 category, so I guess… yo hell with the rest of you!  Ha ha.

No nuts strewn about the restaurant: 1

This one agitates me.  If it’s part of the restaurant’s shtick/ambiance/personality… then just give it up.  I like being able to walk into Five Guys and grab a tray of peanuts.  I don’t expect (or want) to dine at Long John Silvers or Red Lobster any time soon.

Specific allergen menus available in-house (not just online): 13

Allergen symbol list on menus: 12

Online food allergy menu: 4

All excellent points.  I’ve blogged about the need for menu symbols before.  Let’s get this done, people!

Ability to print out all ingredients for customer / show labels to customer if necessary: 11

Great idea.  A representative from Bob Evans once emailed me a chart detailing where everything was cooked in the kitchen & what surfaces would be safe with my shellfish allergy while they has a seasonal Shrimp stir-fry dish.  How cool is that?

At any rate, read the Blog at AllergyEats, and leave some feedback whether you participated in the original survey or not… it’s still valuable.  I’d also appreciate any comments here.  I’m sure the peanut thing will get some people riled up.  Ha ha.

 

Defining Allergy-Friendly


AllergyEats.com

AllergyEats.com

So, quite a task has been put to the food allergy community by Allergy Eats:  Define what it means to for a restaurant to be “allergy-friendly”.

You may have seen it in a recent re-posting by me, or on your own.  I urge you to form your own response and send it to contact@allergyeats.com.  I figured that I’d use this blog to sort out my thoughts before I sent them on to Paul at Allergy Eats.  I don’t exactly how I’ve morphed in to a food allergy advocate of sorts, but I feel that it’s important to help out any way that I can, and encourage others to keep up work that moves us all in the right direction.  There are already some great comments on the blog, and I’m sure he’s got an inbox full of suggestions already… but it’s important to keep them coming so this can be looked at from multiple angles.

AllergyEats T-shirtI like bulleted lists for some reason, so that’s how I’ll try to organize my thoughts:

  • The restaurant has to have a policy that reaches to ALL levels. Too many times restaurants claim to have god allergy practices, but it doesn’t trickle down to the wait staff, the cooks, or anyone past management.  Having a policy is great, but it needs to be understood and respected through all levels.  I feel comfort in a place when the waitress has the manager or even the chef come out to discuss allergy & cross-contamination issues with me.  Training, some sort of certification, and re-training annually or semi-annually would be excellent.
  • Changing current thinking. This is a good one…  Today at Boston Market, I noticed a sign on top of the cash register that read something to the effect of “If you have food allergies, please talk to the manager before placing your order.”  It’s great they’re recognizing the fact that there are food allergies out there, but… the cash register is at the end of the counter, and only reached well after you place your order.  Also, I’d hope that someone with food allergies would already have a heightened awareness when going anywhere to eat.  (If not, please read this.) More thought needs to be put into place, not just “CYA” measures.
  • They have to exude reassurance. A poster is great.  An “allergy-friendly” menu is great.  A sign at the cash register or on your table or on the salad bar is great… but not enough.  In with the training on all levels, the sever (or whoever answers the phone) must bee confident with the answers that you want to hear.  No “I don’t think” or “not really” or “I’m not sure so you’d just better not order that” will do.  Have the right answers.  Know why.  Understand the severity.  Knowledge of the kitchen and where everything is cooked should be a must for servers and managers.  Nuts can’t just be “picked off”.  There’s no such thing as “oh a little won’t hurt” with butter.  The fryer doesn’t “get hot enough to kill anything you’re allergic to”.  It’s unsettling fr someone with food allergies to dine out.  Making them feel safe is a must for “friendliness”.
    • On a related note… especially the person answering your phone.  When dining out of town, I try to call ahead (or get my wife to call ahead for me).  My favorite response ever was an Amish place in Ohio where I asked if they had shellfish (“like shrimp or crab or oysters” I said)… the girl went on to say “No, we have oysters, but they’re in soup, and there’s shrimp… but it’s not in a shell.”  Needless to say, we didn’t go there.
  • All allergies are equal. It’s great to see “nut free” options, or “gluten-free” menus, but let’s treat all allergies with the same respect to cross contamination.  The top 8 are; Milk, Egg, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, Soy, & Wheat.  But, there are others too!  I know of people with severe allergies to peppers, and have heard of corn allergies.  These people need to feel safe too!  Current government regulations don’t regulate the labeling of any allergens other than the top 8, so that’s all that people seem to pay attention to.  Special attention needs to be given to all kinds of allergies, not just one allergen or group of singled-out allergens.
  • Know what you’re serving. Are their anchovies in the Italian dressing or Worcester sauce?  Is this fried in peanut oil?  The server shouldn’t necessarily need to know off hand, but this information should be able to be provided upon request. Having it in written form would be tremendous.  (We could go into other special dietary needs here too… not an allergy, but I have an aunt with Diverticulitus who needs to know if there are seeds or nuts that may be ground up and hidden in things like dressing or soups or bread.) Listing all this on a website would be excellent.
  • Separate locations & utensils for allergy-free meal preparation. Cross-contamination is huge.  I don’t worry about a mutant lobster crawling into my mouth by itself… but I do worry (immensely) that some scallop juice might be on the grill where my steak was cooked… or that someone who just made a shrimp cocktail didn’t wash their hands before making my salad.  I’d love to know that the place where I’m dining has a fish or shellfish only fryer, separate grill spaces for different kinds of meat (even a vegetarian/vegan section would be cool), even separate cutting boards, prep areas, knives, and other utensils.
    • Keep the nuts off the salad bar… near their own station.
    • Hey Subway, don’t put the “seafood” sub stuff right next to the other lunchmeat, and don’t cut those subs with the same knife you use for all the other subs!
  • Ability to accommodate the unusual. Say someone has an inhalation allergy to peanuts…  Can you seat them somewhere so that the people at the next table are able to order some peanut-encrusted dessert without throwing them into an anaphylactic fit?  Can you do this without rolling your eyes, sighing, and making it a big deal?
  • Special markers/identifiers. I saw a commenter note this in the comments on the Allergy Eats blog post, and it’s absolutely brilliant.  Something ought to be a literal red flag… in the system, on an order ticket, on the check, on even the plate itself.  Everyone knows that orange-rimmed coffee pots mean decaf.  Why not red for allergies?  Or get crazy & assign a color to each of the top 8 & one for “other” allergies?  Did I read that Legal Sea Foods does double-plating or something to that effect?  It’s genius.  I’d like to extend the symbols idea to the menu too… why not have some sort of system with easily recognized food allergy icons?

That’s my take for now, but there are already many other great suggestions in the comments section over at Allergy EatsPlease, take the time to send yours to contact@allergyeats.com before Feb. 2nd!

 

AllergyEats | Urgent request for support to help impact REAL, impending food allergy legislation!


This is an important one for my food allergy readers… please take the time to read this post from Allergy Eats and respond accordingly!  This is your chance to have some real input to actual legislation, not just another request to your state, federal, and local officials.

The entire post below is reposted with assumed permission… please re-post, re-blog, re-tweet, use your ham radio or the telegraph, and get the word out.

Urgent request for support to help impact REAL, impending food allergy legislation!

I am reaching out to the entire food allergy community with a great opportunity for us to have an impact on REAL, forthcoming food allergy legislation.

A few months ago, I was invited to work with a governmental body that is enacting a food allergy law pertaining to restaurants.  (For now, please respect my decision not to mention specifics.  I believe doing so could compromise my ability to effectively represent our food allergy constituency.)  I was, and remain, very excited about this opportunity to advocate for our community.

In the course of this group’s discussions, there seemed to be a lingering question – what is the definition of an allergy-friendly restaurant? While I was very comfortable responding to that question myself, I believed at the time that it would be more effective to have community comments, which I was (and am) very confident would support my position.  I suggested that I contact members of the food allergy community, via the thousands of AllergyEats members and social media followers, and solicit as many unprompted opinions as possible.

So here’s what I’m requesting.  Could you please take a moment to answer the following question:

How would you define an allergy-friendly restaurant?  (Please be as specific as possible.)

This is an absolutely critical opportunity to affect not only impending legislation, but legislation that could become a template for other states and municipalities across the nation!

I strongly urge you to take a few minutes to respond to this request.  I believe my effectiveness in advocating for the food allergy community will be directly impacted by how many supporters answer this call.  To that end, please also consider spreading this message as broadly as possible, using social media, blogs, or any other resource you have access to.  The more voices we have, the more effective we will be!

I assure you that I will continue to do my best in advocating for our community and I promise to share more about this particular legislation when appropriate.

Important Note: I need to collect responses by February 2, giving us just one week, so please consider responding as soon as possible.

Again, the question I am asking you to answer is:

How would you define an allergy-friendly restaurant?  (Please be as specific as possible)

Please submit your responses to me at contact@allergyeats.com or feel free to post your comments here on the blog by clicking Comments or Reply.  (Email is preferable, but either is greatly appreciated.)

Thank you for your support!

I’m going to say it even though I shouldn’t have to… comments on this blog are appreciated, but to get them to AllergyEats, please comment on the original blog post or email contact@allergyeats.com.

Sadly, this sums up my general attitude towards dining out with food allergies and “safe” menu options:

 

AskCensus | A response on the ACS from the US Census Bureau:


So, out of all the people that I asked about the American Community Survey, none are so relevant as the U.S. Census Bureau itself.  After all, they’re the ones who put it out.  While PA State Rep. John Maher’s response is insightful and amusing, and the Spencarian’s Benjamin Kirby offers a different perspective… only the Census Bureau can comment officially.  It took me slightly longer than their professed 2-day response time to get back to me, but I’m sure they have better things to do than respond to some goofy idiot with pseudonym and an email account.  Also to be fair, they did kind of address my concerns on the FAQ.  I was just a little more long-winded about it.

Well, without further adieu, here’s what they had to say…

- ☞⌨☜ -

from: AskCensus <askcensus@custhelp.com>
reply-to: AskCensus <askcensus@custhelp.com>
to: recrat.demopublican@gmail.com
date: Thu, Oct 28, 2010
subject: The American Community Survey? [Incident: 000000-000000]

Recently you requested personal assistance from our on-line support center. Below is a summary of your request and our response.

If this issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, you may reopen it within the next 0 days.

Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.

To access your question from our support site, click here.

Subject
The American Community Survey?
Discussion Thread
Response (ACSO – SLH) 10/28/2010 16:21
Thank you for using the US Census Bureau’s Question & Answer Center.  

We appreciate your feedback regarding the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. You make many valid points and in a world free of people too busy to respond we could easily get by with one mailing. As it is, our research has shown better response results from multiple mailings and reminder cards and for this program using multiple mailings to get someone to respond to the paper questionnaire is cheaper than obtaining the information by phone or personal visit.

As for the Internet response option we are in the development and testing phase for this application. The Director of the Census Bureau, Dr. Groves, supports this project not only for the ACS but also for the 2020 Census.

As for reducing the time burden on the American public, the director is dedicating resources to researching adminstrative/alternative sources for the information collected on the ACS and Census forms.

If you need more information or have further questions about the ACS, please call our Customer Services Center on 1 (800) 923-8282.

Question Reference #000000-000000
Escalation Level: 16 hours from created
Category Level 1: American Community Survey
Date Created: 10/20/2010 10:49
Last Updated: 10/28/2010 16:21
Status: Solved PII (Admin)
Cc:

[---000:000000:00000---]

- ☞⌨☜ -

Well, that was certainly bland, but at least they are looking to technological advances in the future.  I still see this statement as crazy: “…for this program using multiple mailings to get someone to respond to the paper questionnaire is cheaper than obtaining the information by phone or personal visit.”  I’d love to see that on paper.  (Or better yet, in an email.)

 

 

 

 

 

The Spencarian’s Benjamin Kirby | Thoughts on the ACS…


So, you ready my letter to anyone who would listen about the American Community Survey, right?  Hopefully you’ve also read the amusing reply from PA State Rep. John Maher.  Now we have the thoughts of political blogger, Benjamin Kirby of The Spencerian.  Through the magic of Google I happened upon his blog, saw that he liked answering political questions, and (of course) asked my question(s).  I got an excellent reply…

from: Benjamin Kirby <bkirby816@yahoo.com>
to: Recrat Demopublican <recrat.demopublican@gmail.com>
date: Thu, Oct 21, 2010
subject: Re: A POLITICAL QUESTION: The American Community Survey?

Hey, great letter, Recrat!  Really good.

I’ll try to answer it on the blog — you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t re-post the whole thing.  I’ll try to do your general concept justice, though.

Just as a quick answer, let me say that I think you’ll see huge changes in things like the ACS as well as the ten-year census over the next five to ten years.  We have Facebook, Twitter, and who knows what else in the future.  There is almost no reason to cut down a forest to do the ACS.

That said, I know some people who rely on the data the ACS provides, and it.  Is.  Critical.  It’s really important stuff, and it’s so important that people fill it out, that they’ll do whatever it takes to get their attention.  There’s the old marketing adage: tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you’ve told them.  And the only way the government can do that efficiently right now is through snail mail and paper.  Sounds weird, I know — but it’s true.

We’ll explore this more in the post in the next few days.

Thanks so much.

BJK

…and it was followed-up by a blog post:

Q & A: Answering a Question with a Question

I won’t re-post the whole thing here, but I would urge you to check out his blog, and post your comments there or here.

An excerpt…

First of all, let’s be totally fair to Recrat: he asked a great question.  The only problem with it was that it was in the neighborhood of, oh, around 1,250 words.  The highlights he asked about involved wasted resources in producing the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey in the area of money, time, energy, and paper.

Ha ha.  Sorry for being wordy, but…

Hello Pot...  ...Meet Kettle.

I guess it’s in all of us blog people.