Food Allergies and the “Big-8” Allergens
Cal Dining understands any type of food can potentially trigger an allergic reaction, but as identified by the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) organization, only 8 foods account for 90 percent of all allergic reactions in the United States including peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. To help our customers with food allergies and/or intolerance to choose safely, the Big-8 allergens are listed on the menu signage in units and the online menu. In addition, we also list sesame, gluten, pork, and alcohol. Our menu signage in the dining commons and campus restaurants, as well as ingredients listed on product packages at our retail locations, are resources for you to identify these allergens. Please take the time to read the allergen signage at our locations and on our website. Note that the advisory labeling (i.e., precautionary statements such as “may contain,” “processed in a facility that also processes,” or “made on equipment with”) by manufacturers is not being considered for the labeling of allergens on our menus. Please find more information related to each of the Big-8 allergens below:
A peanut allergy is the most common and differs from tree nuts. The difference is peanuts are a legume crop and grow underground, whereas tree nuts grow on trees and include nuts such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts. Severe reactions to peanuts do not usually occur through casual contact. Reactions are mostly triggered if peanuts come into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth area. If your body accidentally comes in contact with a peanut-containing food, wash that area immediately and keep it away from the eyes, nose, and mouth.
- As a general practice, Cal Dining avoids the use of peanuts as an ingredient in our recipes, or chooses to serve peanuts on the side instead of mixing it into the dishes. Peanuts are labeled as an allergen on our menu signage if a food or recipe is known to contain peanuts or peanut derivatives.
Tree nuts include some of the following nuts: walnut, almond, pecan, hazelnut, cashew, pistachio, macadamia, chestnut, and Brazil nut. These differ from legumes (peanut, soybean) and seeds (sunflower, sesame). A person with a specific tree nut allergy may be at higher risk of developing an allergy to another tree nut.
- Use of tree nuts in Cal Dining recipes is sparse. When possible, we choose to serve tree nuts on the side. Tree nuts are labeled if a food or recipe is known to contain tree nuts or their derivatives. Our menu labels tree nuts as a group without identifying the individual type, and we advise our customers with specific tree nut allergies to avoid all tree nuts no matter what type you are allergic to.
A milk allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a specific protein in milk that leads to mild to severe symptoms such as rashes, hives, breathing difficulty, and even loss of consciousness. Milk allergy is often confused with lactose intolerance, but lactose intolerance does not involve the immune system and occurs when someone lacks the enzyme lactase. Symptoms for lactose intolerance include nausea, cramps, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. This condition is generally not life threatening, whereas an allergy can be.
- Milk is labeled as an allergen on Cal Dining’s menu signage if a food or recipe is known to contain milk, other dairy products, or milk derivatives.
Although the egg white typically contains the allergenic proteins, due to likelihood of cross-contact, customers with egg allergy are advised to avoid eggs altogether.
- Eggs are labeled as an allergen on Cal Dining’s menu signage if a food or recipe is known to contain eggs or egg derivatives.
A wheat allergy can present a challenge because wheat is a predominant grain in the standard American diet. A wheat allergy should not be confused with gluten intolerance and Celiac disease. Wheat allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to specific wheat protein. Celiac disease is a digestive disease for which the only treatment is a diet free of gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley.
- For customers with a wheat allergy and/or gluten intolerance, enjoy alternative grains such as oat (oatmeal) and rice, which are also mainstays at Cal Dining. Wheat is labeled as an allergen on Cal Dining’s menu signage if a food or recipe is known to contain wheat or wheat derivatives. Gluten is labeled separately in addition to wheat.
The soybean is a member of the legume family. Other legumes include beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts. Having an allergy to soybean does not make one more susceptible to developing an allergy to another legume.
- Soy based foods, including tofu and soymilk, are mainstays in Cal Dining locations as a vegan source of protein. Soy is labeled as an allergen on Cal Dining’s menu signage if a food or recipe is known to contain soy or soy derivatives.
Finned fish can cause severe allergic reactions. Salmon, tuna, and halibut are the most common kinds of finned fish that cause an allergy. More than half of all people who are allergic to one type of fish are also allergic to other fish, so allergists often advise their fish-allergic patients to avoid all fish. Finned fish and shellfish do not come from related families of foods, so being allergic to one does not necessarily mean that both must be avoided.
- Cal Dining is proud to serve sustainable seafood, primarily finned fish. Fish is labeled if a food or recipe is known to contain fish or fish derivatives. Our menu labels fish as a group without identifying the individual type, and we advise our customers to avoid all fish no matter what type you are allergic to.
There are two kinds of shellfish: crustacea (such as shrimp, crab, and lobster) and mollusks (such as clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops). Reactions to crustacean shellfish tend to be particularly severe. If allergic to one group of shellfish, one might still be able to eat some varieties from the other group. However, since most people who are allergic to one kind of shellfish usually are allergic to other types, allergists usually advise their patients to avoid all varieties.
- The most common shellfish served at Cal Dining is shrimp. Shellfish is labeled if a food or recipe is known to contain shellfish or derivatives. Our menu labels shellfish as a group without identifying the individual type, and we advise our customers to avoid all shellfish no matter what type you are allergic to.
Have Food Allergies or Other Dietary Restrictions?
Please consider the following when dining with us:
BE AWARE: Always read the allergen labels placed on menu items. When in doubt, always ask a staff member.
BE PREPARED: Schedule an appointment with our Dietitian Jaylene Tang, MS, RDN, by emailing email@example.com. She will meet with you individually to learn your dietary needs, and connect you with the chef in charge of the preparation of your meals.
BE HEALTHY: Consult with our dietitian to make your food selections safely and easily. She can provide guidance on nutritional information, as well as recipes for the dining commons. Read more about how to manage your food allergies while on a meal plan at Cal on our resources page.
Cal Dining makes every effort to identify ingredients that may trigger allergic or other adverse reactions for individuals with food allergies or intolerance. Our staff is trained and educated on food allergies and gluten-free diets on an ongoing basis, and they ensure items marked gluten friendly are made without gluten-containing ingredients. However, due to the volume of meals served and items used each day, along with food product changes from our vendors, we cannot guarantee every allergen or gluten source in the food served will be identified and labeled. There is a small possibility that, without notice to us, manufacturers of the commercial foods we use can change the formulation at any time. Cross contact may also occur despite our best efforts to prevent it. Customers concerned with food allergens and gluten must be aware of these risks. Cal Dining cannot assume any liability for adverse reactions to food consumed, or items one may come in contact with while eating at any Cal Dining facility or catered event. Customers with life-threatening food allergies in need to use an Epi-pen should be carrying their own at all times. Cal Dining staff is NOT trained to administer Epi-pens and CANNOT provide or administer them.