New Allergen-Friendly Food Station Debuts at Philbrook Dining Hall

New Allergen-Friendly Food Station Debuts at Philbrook Dining Hall

Tuesday, September 17, 2013
allergy-free food station

The new allergen food station in Philbrook Dining Hall.Photo credit: Rochelle L’Italien

In its continuing effort to satisfy as many of its customers as possible, Dining Services has opened its first allergen-friendly food station. Philbrook Dining Hall began serving food made with attention to allergies when the semester began. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food manufacturers to list the eight most common ingredients that trigger 90 percent of allergic reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, i.e.) fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. 

The new allergen-friendly food station addresses all eight potential triggers; all of the foods are prepared without using any of the allergens, and gluten. 

“Throughout the years, allergen concerns have been growing. Every year we seem to have more and more freshmen coming in who have food allergies,” says David Hill, area manager of culinary and production operations.“ So, we’ve been wanting to do this for a while now.”

Hill says there were discussions about what allergies to address; what foods to eliminate. At the same time, they knew they wanted the food offered at the allergy-friendly station to be healthy and nutritious. 

Fish was out because so many people are allergic, and not just to shellfish. Flounder and bass and cod are a few examples of fish that can cause problems for people. Red meat was ruled out based on healthy eating recommendations. That left pork, poultry and vegetarian options for protein sources. 

“We’re using simple recipes with no more than five ingredients. Things like lime citrus pork or chipotle chicken,” Hill says, adding they spent the summer building recipes and making sure they were truly allergy-free. 

"It was a little tricky with sauces but we’ve worked it out,” Hill adds. 

The food station offers two soups, a bean-based salad and a leafy green salad, a vegetable, potato or rice, and poultry or pork daily. Processed food is kept to a minimum. 

“It’s a good round selection for people with allergies,” Hill says. “And it’s a good steppingstone for us.” 

The model will be used for Stillings and Holloway Commons at some point in the future. 

“In addition to what we already do to assist customers with special nutrition needs on an individual basis, such as the online gluten-free meal ordering system and gluten-free zones in each dining hall, this station allows customers to have additional options of fresh, prepared dishes free of multiple allergens,” says Rochelle L’Italien, registered dietitian  with Dining Services, who reviews recipe ingredients for allergen compliance.

Read more on Dining Services’ healthy options here.