A food allergy is the response of the body to a food or protein the body perceives as injurious and therefore produces antibodies (Eigenmann, 2009). Highly popular are allergies towards nuts, eggs or seafood. The symptoms can vary from swelling of the throat or mouth, skin reactions, noxious feeling, breathing difficulties or even collapse (Busky, 2012). Intolerance on the other hand is the reaction when the body is not able to deal or digest a kind of food because the body misses or cannot produce certain enzymes. Most commonly known are lactose and gluten intolerances which are coeliac disorders. Triggering a malabsorption of several nutritional ingredients the sufferer has to deal with indigestion, mild abdominal (stomach) pain, bloating, occasional changes in bowel habit, such as episodes of mild diarrhoea or constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss or even vomiting (National Health Services). All these symptoms give high restrictions during daily life and require careful attention. Further the term of anaphylaxis appears quite often in the context of food allergy. Anaphylaxis describes an extreme form of imunsystem reaction to a chemical contact with of a substance of the sufferer within the environment. It impinges on the whole body and can in worst cases lead to an anaphylactic shock which often causes death (National Health Services). The British Allergy Foundation stated that in 2012 up to 21 million people in the UK are affected by food allergies and that almost 10 million of them are suffering from more than one allergy. They further estimated that by the year 2015 almost 50 per cent of the Europeans will suffer from an allergy. These facts are already allowing an insight into the importance of the topic in the hospitality industry and its uprising as a contemporary issue of increasing significance. In the following section some general information and research and three food allergy organizations will be presented more in detail. The topic will be presented with a detailed view on the approach in restaurants. The key findings will be evaluated and summarized in the conclusion.
Allergens in food are not always labelled and indicated on product or menu items. Further as per the findings of Pratten and Towers (2003) there is high education and training for hospitality workers in terms of food hygiene and preparation but with no deeper focus on handling food allergies. Eating out therefore becomes a difficult challenge especially for families. Especially, after reviewing a study of Cathy A. Enz on behalf of the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly in 2004. Her findings show that for restaurant managers and owners the level of concerns regarding food allergies lays only with 3,3 % (out of 100%) and is ranked on the sixed position out of eight criteria (see appendix, exhibit 1). As per Allergykids.com four in ten UK school children have an allergic condition. Hence the parents have to control and watch after their children much more to ensure their well-being. The founder and CEO of Allergyeats.com, Paul Antico states “First and foremost, I’m a dad of kids who have food allergies. I understand the concerns of parents and know what it’s like to be constantly on guard.” Adding to this statement, seven out of ten sufferers say their allergy has an adverse effect on their lives (Allergykids.com, 2012). This is clearly showing the impact on the hospitality and the need for adaption in the service offer. Within the issue of Food Allergies there have been several approaches to ease and make the topic more valid and accessible on the consumer as well as on the service providers ‘point of view.
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act
One step was the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of the second of August of 2004 which came into effect on the first of August 2006. It obliges manufacturers to label and indicate common allergens like nuts...