Pizzerias’ Vigilant on Food Allergies

Pizza has been very popular for decades with the ingenuity of its innovators to provide a flavorful and tasty treat. With different ingredients infused to make a salivating dish, the love for pizza has not wavered even for a bit. But with people coming into realization that some ingredients or food components does not blend well with their stomachs, the problem of making pizza as tasty as it could possibly be has been a puzzle to many of pizza makers and owners.

Food allergy is an adverse response to a food protein. The immune system releases histamine to fight off a mistakenly identified protein molecule that is regarded as bad to the body. Manhattan nutritionist Robin Kaiden noted that around 4 million children tend to have allergic reactions or intolerances to certain ingredients. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control or CDC compiled the top foods that cause allergic reactions to children under age 18 based on a 2005-2006 test. They are milk (18%), peanuts (9%), eggs (7%), and shrimp (5%). The CDC test also shows that from 1997-2007, food allergies among children rose from 3.3% to 3.9%.

Food sensitivity has also been an issue that coincides with food allergies. Avoidance to such foods or certain ingredients has been followed by people to prevent triggering allergic responses. Such responses are not life threatening but preventing allergies to happen is better.

However, people have different insights of what food allergy is and if it is really happening and increasingly alarming to the population. Kaiden said that there is not a significant pool of information if food allergies are really on the rise. Aside from the CDC data, there had been only few cases to which allergic reaction to food has been documented.

Certain pizza restaurants addressed the problem of incurring food allergies to its customers in order to guarantee its prevention.

Willow Street Wood-Fired Pizza’s three restaurants located at San Jose, Saratoga, and South Bay and its very knowledgeable customers are well aware of these food allergies. Its staff is well trained to ask its guests from every table on who has allergic reactions to some of their pizzas ingredients which in turn makes a customized pizza for the diners to enjoy.

Nancy Reiniking, the director of operations in Willow’s has seen noticeable changes in her 17 years with the company with regards to their customers reporting allergic reactions to their food. She said that people are well aware of some components like gluten. In order to further prevent food allergies, Willow’s keep a separate container for gluten-free pizzas as well as their utensils to avoid cross contamination.

Papa Murphy’s, the largest “Take N’ Bake” pizza company world and the fifth largest pizza company in the United States also gets information from customers to address allergic reactions from their pizzas.

Laura Lashbrook of the quality assurance and manager in research and development of Papa Murphy’s said they are taking note of the top 8 allergens of the FDA and had posted their ingredients to their stores to tackle sensitivity issues to some ingredients with customers. Franchisees are also trained for cross contamination measures and their suppliers get to take their annual allergen sensitivity test.

Some restaurants in New York City also address such concerns by asking customers about their allergic reaction to certain food ingredients. Robin Kaiden who is also a consultant for medical specialists in the area suggests separate cabinets, refrigerators and dishwashers to further avoid cross contamination.

Customers’ responses are also very important for pizza restaurants. As Nancy Reineking of Willow’s Street Wood-Fired Pizza suggest, customers need to tell servers about their allergic reactions to certain foods to completely address the issue. The pizza restaurants should also be more attentive to customers’ needs. 

Posted by Diane Araga, on September 11, 2013 at 10:00 AM