Special Diets / Wellness

Food Allergens

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We take food allergies seriously. Our menu items are prepared from scratch in our kitchens each day using the freshest, highest quality selections available seasonally and regionally. As a result, we do not operate from corporate recipes and ingredients and products change frequently in our kitchens.  If you have food allergy concerns, our well-trained chefs and/or registered dietitians will be glad to assist you with menu options to meet your your dietary needs.  Our chefs are the best resource for real time information about products and ingredients used in a specific dish that day. In many cases, we can make modifications as necessary.

While our culinary teams receive significant training about food allergens, please keep in mind that our dishes are prepared in open kitchens and the top eight most common allergens are present in all Bon Appétit cafés.


More on Food Allergens

Food allergies are becoming increasingly common in the United States. Scientists estimate that approximately 15 million Americans today suffer from food allergies. An estimated 9 million, or 4 percent of adults have food allergies, while nearly 6 million, or 8 percent of children have food allergies (1).

How can you determine if you have a food allergy or intolerance?

The first step is to seek professional advice from an allergist certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. Once you identify your individual issues, seek the advice of a registered dietitian to understand your dietary needs. Simply eliminating foods based on self-diagnosis or a hunch can leave you frustrated as well as nutrient deficient.  

What is a Food Allergy vs. a Food Intolerance?

Many people think the terms food allergy and food intolerance mean the same thing; however, there is a difference.

A food intolerance is an adverse food-induced reaction that does not involve the immune system. Lactose intolerance is one example of a food intolerance. A person with lactose intolerance has an insufficient amount of lactase, the enzyme that is needed to digest milk sugar. When this person eats milk products, symptoms such as gas, bloating, and abdominal pain may occur. Other common intolerances include gluten, sulfites, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

A food allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to a certain food the body mistakenly believes is harmful by producing antigens to that food. The next time that food is consumed, the immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals, including histamine, in order to protect the body. These chemicals trigger a host of allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, digestive tract, skin, and/or cardiovascular system. The most severe reaction is anaphylaxis which can be deadly. Any food allergen can cause any of these symptoms but peanut/tree nut and fish/shellfish allergies are most likely to result in anaphylaxis.

More than 90 percent of all food allergies are attributable to the eight major allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, eggs, milk, and soy.

If you’re diagnosed with a food allergy, take action!

  • Be a food sleuth. Know what you’re eating and drinking by reading food labels of packaged foods.  It’s not enough to read the label once – double check it every time you purchase a product (even if it’s the same brand you always buy) and when cooking at home, check once more when preparing your food. Consider these tips for reading food labels.
  • Be proactive and ask questions when eating away from home. It’s important to know the common food sources of your allergen(s) — quiche most often includes eggs and dairy (such as cream or cheese), soy sauce (as the name would imply) usually contains soy and often also includes wheat, etc. Being proactive  will help you make high level decisions about what is safe to eat. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions of the person making the food — the chef at a restaurant or your friend at a dinner party for example. Your own knowledge base coupled with asking questions  can  help you eat safely in many places.
  • Be cautious or avoid self-serve stations in any restaurant environment. Areas such as salad bars, condiment stations, and buffets where other diners serve themselves are high risk for cross-contact. To choose from these areas, ask the restaurant to serve you a portion directly from the kitchen.  
  • Check in often with your healthcare team. Once diagnosed with a food allergy, it’s a good idea to have a healthcare provider who understands your allergies and can respond if you have questions about or changes in your allergy.
  • Take precautions. If you have already had a severe reaction, wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. Make sure people you spend time with are aware of your allergy and know what to do in case of emergency. No matter how cautious you are, talk with your doctor about carrying emergency medications in case of accidental exposure.
  • Carry your medication(s) at all times. In the event of an exposure, quick access to medications can be life-saving.

Allergen Identification in Bon Appétit Cafés

Your safety is our priority when it comes to food allergens. For this reason, we want to share how the Bon Appétit kitchens operate.

Bon Appétit’s approach to food is unique in the industry. We are dedicated to providing the freshest, highest quality selections that are planned specifically for each of our cafés. As a result, our menus change frequently, and we do not operate from a corporate recipe book that outlines all of our ingredients.

We cook from scratch in all locations, much like you might at home — tasting and adjusting as we go to meet flavor profiles and make use of as many local and seasonal ingredients as possible. This approach allows us to easily tell you what ingredients are in a dish.

However, it is not uncommon for a single Bon Appetit kitchen to handle hundreds, if not thousands, of ingredients. For this reason, the chefs and managers in your café are the best source of information. They will be able to tell you what was used in a dish in real time, if that item may have been prepared where risk for cross-contact is high, and share package information for the product(s) that were used.

The top eight most common food allergens are present in all Bon Appétit cafés. Our managers and chefs are well-trained to help you with your food allergy needs – just ask!

Making Choices in Our Cafés

When you have food allergies, planning ahead is an important part of eating away from home, no matter the setting. Consider these tips when dining in Bon Appétit cafes:

  1. Explore the menu on your café’s website at www.cafebonappetit.com and review the various options.
  2. Our cafés generally include the name of known food allergens in the menu item name and/or through a restaurant-style descriptor. Talk with us for more information about specific product brands and to see labels for purchased items —  don’t be afraid to ask questions! Bon Appétit chefs are your best source of information about the foods we serve.
  3. Contact the chef or manager in your location if you have questions about a menu item. This is particularly important  if you are concerned about sub-ingredients as products change frequently. We will double check what products were  used so you can have real time information that will help you make the best choices.
  4. If you are a “regular” in the cafe, set up a time to meet with our team and discuss safe “go-to” meals that you can always count on being available. We can also set up a way to expedite your questions on other menu items to speed you through at meal times.
  5. Pick a station that best fits what you can eat. It is best to avoid riskier choices with high opportunities for accidental exposure.  Some examples include (depending on your allergy):  
    1. Asian-Style Stations: peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy are often integral ingredients at this station.
    2. Bakery: high risk of cross-contact, since many items are made with the top 8 allergens and may not be individually packaged.
    3. Salad Bars: with a wide variety of foods so close to one another, the risk of cross-contact is high.
    4. Fried Foods: allergen residue is left behind in the fryer and fry oil from any foods cooked in the fryer including wheat, soy, egg, fish, and shellfish.
  6. When you’re craving an option that might be high risk because of the self-serve style  talk to our staff, we’ll be happy to pull a portion for you that has not been out on the line.
  7. Eat slightly off “peak” when the café is not as busy, preferably earlier in the day or meal period. The staff will have more time to answer questions or pull a special portion from the kitchen for you, and there will have been less opportunity for drips and spills at self-serve stations  from other guests.
  8. Continue the dialogue. Let us know what’s working…and what’s not. We are always willing to work out a new plan to help you eat safely in our cafés.

Remember, when in doubt contact the chef or café manager — we are always onsite and willing to assist.

Navigating Common Sources of Food Allergens

Packaged foods are required to clearly state the presence of the major eight food allergens using their common name.  When eating away from home, knowing common names and sources of your allergen can help you navigate menus more easily.

The following is a partial list of ingredients to be used as a general guide.Consider keeping a copy of this list as outlined by the leading food allergy experts Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). Click here for FARE Tips for Avoiding Your Allergen.

Consult your healthcare professional for more information.

Milk

Ingredients that indicate milk: artificial butter flavor, butter, butter fat, butter oil, buttermilk, casein, caseinates, cheese, cream, cottage cheese, curds, ghee, half & half, lactalbumin, lactulose, milk (in all forms), nougat, pudding, rennet casein, sour cream, sour cream solids, whey, ice cream, sherbet, yogurt.

Some hidden sources of milk protein: baked goods, caramel, chocolate, coffee drinks, dressings and marinades, flavorings, high-protein flour, lactic acid starter culture, lactose, some luncheon meats, hot dogs and sausages, margarine, non-dairy margarine, quiche and other egg-based dishes, protein bars, protein powders.

Eggs

Ingredients that indicate eggs: albumin, albumen, custard, egg (all forms  – egg white, egg yolk), egg (all types –  duck/quail/ostrich etc. eggs ), eggnog, globulin, lecithin, livetin, lysozyme, mayonnaise, meringue, quiche, surimi, some egg replacers.

Some hidden sources of egg protein: baked goods and many desserts, breaded foods, Caesar dressings, egg substitutes, flavorings, foam on some coffee drinks and cocktails, marzipan, marshmallows, meatloaf/meatballs, ingredients with “ovo”in the name, nougat, some pastas, some breads, soufflés.

Peanut

Ingredients that indicate peanut: artificial nuts, arachis oil (aka peanut oil),  beer nuts, cold pressed /expelled /extruded peanut oil, goobers, ground nuts, mandelonas, mixed nuts, monkey nuts, nutmeat, nut pieces, peanut, peanut butter, peanut flour, peanut protein, hydrolyzed peanut protein.

Some hidden sources of peanut protein: cultural cuisines inspired by African, Chinese, Indonesian, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese and vegetarian dishes; as well as baked goods, candy, chili, eggs rolls, glazes and marinades, enchilada sauce, mole sauce, pesto sauce, dried soups, salad dressings, peanut flavoring, marzipan, nougat, some vegetarian meat substitutes.

Other considerations for peanut allergies:

  • It is advised that people with a peanut allergy avoid chocolate candies, tree nuts, and seeds unless they are absolutely certain there is no risk of cross-contact during manufacturing.
  • The FDA exempts highly refined peanut oil from being labeled as an allergen. Studies show that most individuals with peanut allergy can safely eat peanut oil (but not cold-pressed, expelled or extruded peanut oil – sometimes represented as gourmet oils).
  • Some alternative nut butters, such as soy nut butter or sunflower seed butter, are produced on equipment shared with other tree nuts and, in some cases, peanuts. Contact the manufacturer before eating these products.

Tree Nuts

Ingredients that indicate tree nuts: almonds, artificial nuts, Brazil nuts, caponata, cashews, chestnuts, coconut, filbert/hazelnuts, gianduja, ginko nuts, hickory nuts, macadamia nuts, mandelonas, marzipan, almond paste, natural nut extracts, nan-gai nuts, nut butters, nut meal, nutmeat, nut oil, nut paste, nut pieces, pecans, pesto, pine nuts (also Indian, piono, pinyon, pignoli, pignolia or pignon nuts), pistachios, pralines, walnuts.

Some hidden sources of tree nut proteins: Natural/“artificial flavoring” and extracts; Mortadella (may contain pistachios), barbecue sauces, sauces and marinades, baked goods, breads, chocolates, protein or energy bars, cereals and crackers, ice creams.

Other considerations for tree nuts allergies:

  • The following are uncommon, additional tree nuts that require disclosure by U.S. law. However, the risk of an allergic reaction to these nuts is unknown: beechnut, ginkgo, shea nut, butternut, hickory, chinquapin, lychee nut, and pili nut.
  • Tree nut proteins may be found in cereals, crackers, cookies, candy, chocolates, energy bars, flavored coffee, frozen desserts, marinades, barbecue sauces, and some cold cuts, such as mortadella.      
  • The FDA recognizes coconut as a tree nut. While allergic reactions to coconut have been documented, most people who are allergic to tree nuts can safely eat coconut. If you are allergic to tree nuts, talk to your allergist before adding coconut to your diet.
  • Some alcoholic beverages may contain nut flavoring and should be avoided.

Wheat

Ingredients that indicate wheat: bran, bread crumbs, bulgur, cereal extracts, couscous, club wheat, couscous, cracker meal, dextrin, durum, einkorn, emmer, farina, flour (all-purpose, bread, cake, durum, enriched, graham, high-gluten, high-protein, instant, pastry, self-rising, soft-wheat, steel ground, stone ground, whole wheat), hydrolyzed wheat protein, kamut, malt, matza, matzah/oh meal, pasta, seitan, semolina, spelt, sprouted wheat, triticale, vital wheat gluten, wheat (bran, germ, gluten, sprouts, malt, protein isolate, whole wheat berries), wheat germ oil, wheat grass, wheat pasta, wheat protein isolate, whole wheat berries, vegetable gum.

Some hidden sources of wheat protein: baked goods (cakes, cookies, pastries), breakfast cereals, candy, crackers,  batter-fried foods, beer, breaded foods, cheese sauces and spreads, cooking sprays, curry paste, dairy substitutes, deli meats, dextrin, egg substitutes, flavored snacks/chips/nuts, flavored rice, gravy, hot chocolate mixes, imitation seafood (surimi), imitation bacon bits, flavoring, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, gelatinized starch, meat substitutes/seitan/tempeh, miso, modified corn starch, mustard, natural flavors, oats, processed meats (hot dogs, patties), protein or energy bars, salad dressings, sauces (soy and Worcestershire), soups, seasoned vinegars, vegetable starch, vegetable burgers.

Other Considerations for wheat:

Wheat has been found in some brands of ice cream, marinara sauce, playdough, potato chips, and rice cakes.

Fish and Shellfish

Ingredients that indicate fish: all finned fish, anchovies, caviar, fish gelatin, roe (fish eggs), imitation or artificial fish or shellfish (ie surimi, sea legs, sea sticks).

Ingredients that indicate shellfish: crustaceans (barnacle, crab, crawfish, coral, ecrevisse, krill, lobster, prawns, shrimp, tomalley), mollusks (abalone, clams, cockle, conch, cuttlefish, limpet, mussels, octopus, oysters, periwinkle, sea cucumber, sea urchin, scallops, snails, squid, whelk, scallops).

Some hidden sources of fish and shellfish protein: bouillabaisse, Caesar salad/dressing, Worcestershire sauce, cuttlefish ink, glucosamine, fish stock, flavoring, imitation shellfish, seafood flavoring, surimi, and curry powders, sauces and marinades, particularly Asian-style.

Other considerations for fish and shellfish:

  • An allergic reaction to one species of fish or shellfish, may indicate an allergy to many other species. It is advised to consult with your physician to understand the allergy more.
  • Carrageenan, or “Irish moss,” is not shellfish. It is a red marine algae that is used in a wide variety of foods, particularly dairy foods, as an emulsifier, stabilizer, and thickener.

Soy

Ingredients that indicate soy: edamame, hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, miso, natto, natural flavorings, shoyu sauce,  soy albumin, soy fiber, soy flour, soy grits, soy milk, soy nuts, soy sprouts, soya, soybean, soy protein, soy sauce, soy lecithin,  tamari, tempeh, texturized vegetable protein (TVP), tofu, vegetable broth, vegetable gum, vegetable starch.

Some hidden sources of soy protein: baked goods, canned tuna, cereals, crackers, infant formulas, sauces and soups, non-stick pan spray, some breads, protein powders, protein and energy bars, many Asian-style cuisines.

Other considerations for soy:

  • Some brands of peanut butter list soy on the label.
  • Many “high protein” packaged foods that otherwise wouldn’t be a protein source derive their protein from soy.  
  • The FDA exempts highly refined soybean oil from being labeled as an allergen, however, cold pressed, expeller pressed, or extruded soybean oil are not exempt and may produce a reaction in allergic individuals.
  • While some soy allergic individuals may safely consume soy lecithin based on the advice of their doctor, the FDA currently requires soy lecithin to be declared as an allergen.

Decoding those voluntary statements

As of this time, the use of advisory labels (e.g. “may contain…”, “processed in…”, etc.) on packaged foods is voluntary, and there are no guidelines for their use. However, the FDA has begun to develop a long-term strategy to help manufacturers use these statements in a clear and consistent manner, so that consumers with food allergies and their caregivers can be informed as to the potential presence of the eight major allergens. Please consult your allergist for recommendations on how to handle foods that carry a voluntary statement regarding your allergen.

  1. FARE (Food Allergy, Research & Education). www.foodallergy.org. Accessed March 2016.

Please be aware that Bon Appetit handles all major eight allergens in an open kitchen environment.  Products and ingredients may change without our knowledge or come into contact with other allergens. We cannot assure against this possibility. Guests with food allergies should speak with a manager for assistance with food choices.

This information is not intended to take the place of advice from a healthcare professional. Check with your physician before starting any diet or exercise program. In addition, while all efforts have been made to ensure the information included in this material is correct, new research is released frequently and may invalidate certain pieces of data. March 2016.