Food Allergies – No Laughing Matter

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There are 14 key criteria that we take into account when creating your weekly menus, and we wanted to focus on one aspect today – food allergens.  According to FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education), 4% of adult Americans and 6-7% of children under the age of 18 have food allergens (and the numbers don’t include those with intolerances, sensitivities or those who are simply looking to avoid them for dietary reasons). As seen in the recent controversy around the new Peter Rabbit film, food allergies truly are no laughing matter.

Food Allergies vs. Intolerance

Food allergies and intolerances often get used as terms interchangeably, but there’s quite a difference between them under this umbrella of food sensitivities. People’s adverse reactions to foods can range from a mild gut irritation, to headaches and skin reactions, to a severe anaphylactic response. That being said, there is a clear distinction between an allergy and intolerance. A food intolerance occurs in the gut, when one is unable to properly break down the food ingested. An allergic reaction to food involves the immune system, where one’s body recognizes a food as a “invader” (aka allergen) and initiates a response to overreact. Unlike food intolerances, a food allergy can lead to a life-threatening reaction. For example, someone with a lactose intolerance can experience GI discomfort such as gas, cramping, and bloating from ingesting milk products; someone with a milk allergy can experience rashes, swelling, trouble breathing, or even loss of consciousness from ingesting a milk product. Beyond physical symptoms, food sensitivities can impart a social and even emotional or psychological challenge to those it affects.

How The Foodery Handles Allergens

Here at The Foodery, our focus is on the 8 allergens that are known to cause 90% of all allergic reactions: fish, shellfish, nuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, eggs and dairy.  There are 5 elements to how we handle these allergens in our foods:

  1. We intentionally limit our wheat (gluten) allergens to just 1 meal per menu (out of 8 meals). Gluten is commonly avoided for allergen and sensitivity reasons and many people are just avoiding it for a variety of dietary reasons (which we can cover in another blog some time). If we have wheat on our menu, it will typically be a pasta dish with fresh pasta from Capone Foods in Somerville.  
  2. We intentionally limit our dairy ingredients. Admittedly, we have some casseroles with dairy-based sauces, but we’re in the process of cleaning these up or removing them from the menu. By “cleaning them up”, we mean finding dairy alternatives to cream and milk and lightening up the meals.
  3. We limit allergen-based ingredients to a side cup when possible. This is particularly common for our nuts, tree nuts, dairy-based sauces, and cheeses.
  4. We label all allergens clearly on our menu page and meal label while also listing all ingredients on the website and labels.
  5. Above all, our Culinary Team practices rigorous food safety and operational standards to prevent cross-contamination of ingredients!

No matter the reason one would choose to avoid one food or another, The Foodery is pleased to offer a variety of menu selections in hopes of accommodating your personal needs. It’s our goal to expand our allergen friendly options as a menu continues to grow and evolve. As always, we welcome your suggestions and feedback in making these options available to you!