Illinois Food Allergy Training for Restaurants

New Mandated Allergy Training Statewide in Illinois

Illinois has implemented a new state law that requires restaurants and food service establishments to provide food allergen training for their staff. This law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2018, states that managers must be trained in food allergen awareness within 30 days of their hire date. It also requires that during business hours there must be at least one person working who has received the allergy training.

The regulation in Illinois allows food service professionals to live intentionally when serving each guest who walks through their door. Educating team members allows restaurateurs to connect with their employees in a way that increases their value and strengthens their trust in the company.

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Food allergies are on the rise and restaurant professionals are being asked on a daily basis what each item on their menu includes. The strong focus on food allergies and intolerances today has put pressure on restaurant managers, owners and operators to train their staff and offer allergy-free food options to accommodate every diner. Trust emerges when customers believe the restaurant they are dining in has taken appropriate measures to ensure their safety. Restaurants who take the time to accommodate food allergies are left with are repeat customers and an organic source of referrals.

Training is important within all areas of the kitchen and front of house staff. When an employee feels confident in serving a guest with peanut allergies, it helps to relieve worry that customers have AND that owners and managers have. Illinois is not the first and certainly not the last to make food allergy training mandatory and those with food allergies are feeling triumphant that they live in a state that is a leader in the allergen world.

Similar to the menu labeling area of government regulations, there has been a huge uptick of mandates and laws for food allergy training. Unfortunately no two laws are exactly the same and there is some (but not much) general cross over of who is to be trained, how, when and for how long.

For example, Massachusetts (MA) was the first to require training, taking an old (12+-year-old video) and editing it for implementation across the state.  Rhode Island came on the heels of MA with similar requirements, but again many don’t believe watching a video and clicking a box is authentic training. These videos count as education but training should be more interactive. Michigan, Montgomery County, Maryland, and now Illinois all have specific laws and mandates in place. It is not long before the rest of the country follows suit.

Interestingly enough, similar to menu labeling, many of the forward thinking brands and concepts have already begun to require food allergen training. They know that it is a smart business move to be able to safely serve the 1 in 10 clients asking for recipe modifications for medical need.

Food service professionals in Illinois (and around America) who want to be ahead of the curve and train their team members should take the time to look over their class options. For those looking for answers now, your diners will thank you and your staff will feel valued. Once you have won over a guest with a food allergy through care, respect and service, you have won over a community of loyal diners who will return to your establishment for years to come!

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