Director, Product Quality Assurance
Sodexo North America
Food allergies are more common than many people think. In fact, 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with a food allergy, according to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), and one in three Americans report experiencing some form of negative reaction to food. Chances are someone in your office has a food allergy or intolerance.
September is Food Safety Month, and with food allergies increasing, food safety in any office should include making sure employees can work without fear of an allergic reaction. Many offices are taking steps toward an allergy-free workplace. Here’s what you need to know to understand food allergies and intolerances in the office.
Understand the different types of food allergies and intolerances
A food allergy is the result of an immune response from a food’s protein that can result in thoracic hives, itchy mouth and throat or even gastrointestinal trouble. Serious cases can result in anaphylaxis—a sudden drop in blood pressure and constriction of the airways that can be deadly. Food allergies typically develop quickly and without warning.
Common food allergies include:
- Tree Nuts
Food intolerance is the result of the body’s inability to break down the protein in a particular food. This can result in gastrointestinal discomfort, bloating, heartburn or even headaches. Reactions can range from mild discomfort to severe pain. Food intolerance typically develops over time and is often hard to distinguish from other gastrointestinal issues.
Common intolerable foods include:
- Milk and milk-based products
- Gluten which can be found in products produced using wheat, rye and barely
Learn which foods are problems in your office
Send out a survey or ask around. There’s a good chance someone in the office has a food allergy or intolerance. Encourage those with an allergy to speak up and talk about their allergy. The more that people are aware, the safer the work environment becomes.
Create an action plan to accommodate for office food allergies
If your office provides snacks, take inventory of the snack supply for food that does and does not contain the types of food that those in the office are allergic to. Luckily, food manufacturers are required to clearly label if their product contains common allergens. If your office does not offer any options for those with allergies, make it a priority to provide a couple.
Keep the offices’ dietary needs in mind when planning office meetings and events that involve food. Make it a priority for safe food to be provided, so those with allergies do not have to worry about food and can continue to focus on their work.
Be prepared in case of a food allergy emergency
Visit the Food Allergy Research & Education website to learn what to do in the event that someone in your office has an allergic reaction.
As part of our commitment to Zero Harm, Sodexo requires managers to be ServSafe Certified every three years to keep employees and customers safe from foodborne illnesses.
Are you planning to make any changes to accommodate employees with food allergies? Tell us in the comments section.