Some restaurants are taking steps to make dining safe for their food-sensitive customers. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Vincenzo Pizzelli and his employees at Gastronomia Culinaria are looking to learn more about food allergies.
"In the latest year, I’ve noticed an increase in allergies among customers and non-customers," Pizzelli says.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's a legitimate trend, with a 50 percent increase in food allergies among children between 1997 and 2011.
So Pezzilli reached out to Hudson Allergy, where the founding doctors offer a food allergy course for restaurateurs and their staff.
"Tim and I educate our patients on food allergies all the time, but it’s not enough. Our patients are still having reactions, not only in their homes, but outside. Not just at grocery stores, sampling foods, but at restaurants," says Dr. Julie Kuriakose, co-founder of Hudson Allergy.
"What was missing was an easy way for every restaurant to manage a person with food allergies from before they even come into the restaurant, during the dining experience, and obviously afterwards," says Dr. Tim Mainardi, also co-founder of Hudson Allergy.
They run through the basics, like the most common triggers—milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts—and how to handle phone inquiries from allergy sufferers, serving customers once they arrive and avoiding cross contamination during food preparation.
"It doesn’t take a lot of food or food protein to trigger a reaction. As soon as they’re alerted that a food allergy guest is dining with them, we want to make sure that precautions are taken such as separate utensils, hand washing, wearing gloves," Kuriakose says.
"There are only two professions in this world that dress in white: one is the doctor and one is the chef. So we are the doctor of food. We have to be able to understand what we’re putting on our plate," Pezzilli says.
Pezzilli now plans on changing the menu, highlighting all the ingredients that may trigger an allergic reaction.
"Even if it is a little bit of a headache, it’s better to be safe than sorry," Pezzilli says.
That extra consideration could pay off.
"People who feel comfortable going to a restaurant because they take them seriously are far more likely to go back to that restaurant and bring their friends with them," says Mainardi.
Visit Hudson Allergy's website for more information on the food course: hudsonallergy.com.