80% of survey respondents with food allergies are allergic to two or more foods

In April I wrote a blog post sharing a key finding from a survey I was involved in: 76% of food allergic survey respondents say they won’t visit your restaurant if you don’t have information online. Here is another fun fact for you: Over 80% of the respondents said they are allergic to two or more foods.

Specifically, of 1,000 consumers with food allergies:
• 16% say they are allergic to one food,
• 16% say they are allergic to two foods, and
• 68% say they are allergic to three or more foods.

Wow. I was intrigued by this data because this is a question I have never been able to find an answer to. While I am not confident this statistic is representative of the general population, it’s likely a fair number of people with allergies are allergic to multiple foods. Thinking about the people in my personal life with food allergies, 50% have one food allergy while the other half have more than one.

This may explain why only 10% of people in the survey preferred individual menus for each allergen (such as “menu items without egg” or “menu items without nuts”). Having to toggle between multiple menus to find something safe to eat provides a less than an ideal experience for the consumer.

If you are in the restaurant business, you are in the experience business. Is your approach to allergen disclosure providing a good experience for your guests with food allergies? 

Start by evaluating the information you provide. Pretend you are allergic to two or three foods and want to dine at your restaurant. Did you find information easily?   Was it easy to understand?  How long did it take you to find options that are safe to eat?  How many options were there?

As shared in my last blog about food allergies, millions of Americans have food allergies and millions more have food intolerances. Given 75% of survey respondents say they take at least 3 people with them when they go out to eat, it will pay to ensure you can meet the needs of this customer base.

Want the rest of the survey results? Just shoot me a note to cheryl@cldnutrition.com and I’ll send them your way.

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Menu labeling: Should you use chemical analysis to audit the nutrition results of your calculated recipe analysis?

Should I use chemical analysis to audit the nutrition results of my calculated recipe analysis?
A client recently asked me this question. They were considering collecting random samples of prepared menu items “from the field” (their restaurants) and sending them to a lab to verify the results of their calculated nutrition results (using a software program). My answer was no. Here’s why.

  • First, you aren’t comparing apples to apples. Calculated nutrient analysis is based on a standardized recipe. If there is variation in the recipe when it is being prepared (and THERE WILL BE as that is the very nature of handcrafted food!), the activity of chemical testing cannot fairly be used to “test” or verify the accuracy of the calculated analysis work,
  • Second, you are likely increasing your liability. The odds that you are going to get the very same number are slim to none. So, when you get a different number back from the lab, what will you do with this result? How much variability between the numbers is acceptable? Which number will you use in your reporting? These questions are important to consider because once you have this information, you are responsible to do something with it.
  • Third, you might be wasting your money. Because calculated analysis can be used to provide your reasonable basis, investing in additional chemical analysis may not be worth the spend.

There are many scenarios when you’ll want to use chemical analysis – but I don’t believe auditing or verifying the results of calculated analysis through field audits is one of them.

This very topic was debated and discussed with a team of colleagues when working on Recipe Nutrient Analysis: Best practices for calculation and chemical analysis and there was consensus on this issue. Here is the excerpt (from page 21):

 
“Field audits are pulling samples from a restaurant or foodservice establishment as served, visually inspecting them and then sending them to a laboratory. Field audits offer a number of advantages when used as “quality checks.” An audit can help determine if a recipe is being followed, if items are being plated correctly and if portions are correct. Field audits, however, are not a way to validate nutrition analysis, either chemical or calculated. Because no recipe can be made exactly the same every time, nutrient content as served may differ slightly. If your organization decides to implement an audit plan, be sure to define an acceptable range of variability and have an action plan in place if results vary.”

 
Food for thought as you work toward menu labeling compliance.

Survey says 76% of people with food allergies won’t visit your restaurant if you don’t have information online

Recently, I had the opportunity to survey (in coordination with Allergy Eats and Gipsee) 1,000 consumers with food allergies. Here’s what we found:

  • 90% say they research a restaurant’s offerings before they head out to eat.
  • 76% say they won’t visit a restaurant if they can’t find information online.

These results don’t surprise me at all – but they may surprise you. They may even scare you a little. Serving your guests with food allergies can be a daunting proposition. Accurately and efficiently analyzing your recipes to determine what allergens they contain can seem surmountable and creating another piece of marketing collateral you need to keep up to date is probably the last thing you want to do. Yet the simple reality is this: meeting the needs of consumers with food allergies is no longer negotiable in today’s business environment where every customer counts.

Millions of Americans have food allergies and millions more have food intolerances. Given 75% of survey respondents say they take at least 3 people with them when they go out to eat, that’s a veto vote you can’t afford.

Like many challenges you face today, technology (such as Gipsee’s cloud-based platform) can help you analyze your recipes and present options to your guests in a dynamic, digital platform. Training your staff to minimize cross-contact and interact with your guests with food allergies will round out a successful strategy.

Want the rest of the survey results or help getting started with food allergy reporting? Just shoot me a note to cheryl@cldnutrition.com.

Three questions that can give you the answers you need to label your “food on display” with calories

I recently had the opportunity to work with a large supermarket chain who was preparing for menu labeling. Determining their approach for “self-service foods” and “food on display” was a particular point of interest. The cross-functional team I was working with entered into a fantastic debate and discussion about how to label these items.

The regulation provides some flexibility for these categories as they’ve recognized some venues (like convenience stores and grocery stores) don’t have menus or menu boards to label. If the Common Sense Nutrition Act passes, there may be even more flexibility to go around.

Flexibility is a good thing, but you’ll need a framework to be able to evaluate your choices and find the best approach for your business.

I recommend using these three questions as your guide:

1. Which option will require the least amount of EXTRA materials to be created? Controlling costs will be critical.

2. Which option will require the least amount of versions to maintain? Menu labeling isn’t a one-time event. Increasing your efficiency in maintaining this information will be critical to your long term success.

3. Which option is in service of the consumer? After all, this is about your customer.

For those who are unclear about what your options are with self-service foods and foods on display, send an email to cheryl@cldnutrition.com and I’ll get you the specifics.

 

Cheryl L. Dolven, MS, RDN is a nutrition consultant with over 15 years in corporate dietetics, including experience in packaged foods, retail, and restaurants. In addition to her work in nutrition affairs and food & nutrition communication, Cheryl works with restaurants to guide them through the menu labeling regulation, with the goal of making it manageable for businesses and meaningful for consumers. Cheryl is co-author of Recipe Nutrient Analysis: Best Practices for Calculation and Chemical Analysis and was recognized by FSR Magazine as one of its “40 rising stars under 40” in 2014.

Hey Chef: Here is what is missing from your recipe

If you want to have your recipe analyzed for its nutrition content you have two choices: send several samples of the prepared menu item to a laboratory so they can perform chemical analysis or have a food and nutrition expert calculate the nutrition content using your recipe and ingredient information.

If you chose the latter approach (which is much more cost effective), the accuracy and completeness of the recipe you provide to the analyst is critical.

While your standardized recipe may be complete for restaurant operations, you may be surprised at what may be missing to conduct an accurate nutrient analysis.

I asked three of my favorite recipe analysts what is most often missing from the recipes they are given. Take a second look at your recipes after reviewing this expert advice from Wendy Hess, Christin Loudon and Patricia DiLorenzo.

• Failure to clarify ounce vs. fluid ounce. One is a weight and the other is a measure. You cannot assume that 1 fluid ounce also weighs 1 ounce; it will depend on the density of the product. It is best practice to analyze recipes using weights because they are more accurate.

• Missing yield information. Cooking and moisture changes must be taken into account when analyzing a recipe, which makes having only the weight of the unprocessed or uncooked ingredients problematic. The final yield of the cooked product is important.

• Lack of details. Are the nuts salted? Is the flour enriched? What fat content is the ground beef and is the skin on or off the chicken? These details make a big difference in your final result. If you don’t provide them up front, you can be sure that your analyst will pester you relentlessly for these details.

• Omitting the name of the brand or supplier. Similar products can vary greatly in their nutrition content, especially when it comes to sodium. If you know what brand you use, include those details. If you know what supplier provides it, send the spec sheet along so the exact nutrition can be used.

If you want to increase your understanding of recipe analysis, check out www.recipenutrientanalysis.com

Cheryl L. Dolven, MS, RDN is a nutrition consultant with over 15 years in corporate dietetics, including experience in packaged foods, retail, and restaurants. In addition to her work in nutrition affairs and food & nutrition communication, Cheryl works with restaurants to guide them through the menu labeling regulation, with the goal of making it manageable for businesses and meaningful for consumers. Cheryl is co-author of Recipe Nutrient Analysis: Best Practices for Calculation and Chemical Analysis and was recognized by FSR Magazine as one of its “40 rising stars under 40” in 2014.

3 things to do now that menu labeling is delayed

Even though the compliance date for menu labeling has moved (again), it’s important not to lose sight of the end game. Here are three action items to prepare you for menu labeling that you shouldn’t delay.

1. Analyze your recipes. If you don’t have nutrition data for your menu items, you’ll want to get started now. This activity may take you longer than you think, especially if you don’t have all of the ingredient information you need from your suppliers. You may also find your recipes are missing some key information your analyst needs to calculate the nutrition.

 

2. Develop your compliance process. While we don’t know exactly who or how the menu labeling rules will be enforced, we know what FDA will require to prove you have a reasonable basis for the nutrient values you report. Familiarize yourself with the documentation language in the regulation and make sure that documentation is organized and readily available. If you don’t know what documentation is required, send me an email and I’ll get you the specifics (cheryl@cldnutrition.com).

 

3. Create a training program. You operators will need to be prepared when calories come on the menu – this is where it all comes to life! Back-of-house staff will need to understand the importance of following the standardized recipe for which the calorie declarations are based on and front-of-house staff will need to be prepared to interact with customers.

 

Cheryl L. Dolven, MS, RDN is a nutrition consultant with over 15 years in corporate dietetics, including experience in packaged foods, retail, and restaurants. In addition to her work in nutrition affairs and food & nutrition communication, Cheryl works with restaurants to guide them through the menu labeling regulation, to make it manageable for businesses and meaningful for consumers. Cheryl is co-author of Recipe Nutrient Analysis: Best Practices for Calculation and Chemical Analysis and was recognized by FSR Magazine as one of its “40 rising stars under 40” in 2014.

Should I use chemical analysis to audit the nutrition results of my calculated recipe analysis?

A client recently asked me this question. They were considering collecting random samples of prepared menu items “from the field” (their restaurants) and sending them to a lab to verify the results of their calculated nutrition results (using a software program). My answer was no. Here’s why.

 

First, you aren’t comparing apples to apples. Calculated nutrient analysis is based on a standardized recipe. If there is variation in the recipe when it is being prepared (and THERE WILL BE as that is the very nature of handcrafted food!), the activity of chemical testing cannot fairly be used to “test” or verify the accuracy of the calculated analysis work.

Second, you are likely increasing your liability. The odds that you are going to get the very same number are slim to none. So, when you get a different number back from the lab, what will you do with this result?  If they are different – and you do nothing with that information- you are liable.  But what should you do?  What number do you use?  And how big of a difference between the numbers is too big?

Third, you might be wasting your money. Because calculated analysis can be used to provide your reasonable basis, investing in additional chemical analysis may not be worth the spend.

 

There are many scenarios when you’ll want to use chemical analysis – but I don’t believe auditing or verifying the results of calculated analysis through field audits is one of them.

 

This very topic was debated and discussed with a team of colleagues when working on Recipe Nutrient Analysis: Best practices for calculation and chemical analysis and there was consensus on this issue. Here is the excerpt (from page 21):

“Field audits are pulling samples from a restaurant or foodservice establishment as served, visually inspecting them and then sending them to a laboratory. Field audits offer a number of advantages when used as “quality checks.” An audit can help determine if a recipe is being followed, if items are being plated correctly and if portions are correct. Field audits, however, are not a way to validate nutrition analysis, either chemical or calculated. Because no recipe can be made exactly the same every time, nutrient content as served may differ slightly. If your organization decides to implement an audit plan, be sure to define an acceptable range of variability and have an action plan in place if results vary.”