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On the menu: Research helps future restaurant managers reach out to customers with food allergies
Date:10/5/2011

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- A Kansas State University research team is serving up improved food allergy education for future restaurant managers and staff.

Junehee Kwon, associate professor of hospitality management and dietetics, and Kevin Sauer, assistant professor of hospitality management and dietetics, are co-principal investigators on a project recently funded by a United States Department of Agriculture Higher Education Challenge Grant for more than $140,000.

"We are developing food allergy education materials that educators in hospitality management and dietetics can use to supplement the education of future food service managers," Kwon said.

A recent national study showed that more than 40 percent of people who have a seafood allergy -- one of the most common allergies in the United States -- have experienced an allergic reaction from eating in a restaurant.

This high percentage of allergic reactions may be from hidden allergens in sauces or from mixed dishes coming in contact with a safe food item, Kwon said. Knowing that such cross-contact has occurred may be difficult to determine and declare to the customer. Additionally, restaurant employees may not often understand the true risks of food allergies for their customers.

"Consumers with allergies are frustrated," Kwon said. "They are actually putting their lives in danger by buying and consuming food prepared by someone else. There is a need for consumer education to make sure the customer clearly communicates what his or her specific needs are to the restaurant staff. But even with that communication, people are still frustrated by the apparent inability of food service operations to assure allergen-free food."

The researchers will use the grant to improve food allergy training for future restaurant and food service managers. They will develop educational materials to assist students in hospitality management and dietetics to be more proactive in working
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Contact: Junehee Kwon
jkwon@k-state.edu
785-532-5369
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

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