MRM Talking With: Betsy Craig about Food Allergy Symposium for Industry (FASI)

In early November, AllerTrain by MenuTrinfo, which conducts food allergy and gluten free training, launched the Food Allergy Symposium for Industry (FASI) bringing together leading experts from foodservice brands to address the training and tools required to improve concerns and issues surrounding food allergies. Additional topics included the legal aspects of food allergies and new product offerings for special dietary needs in industrial kitchens.  

AllerTrain by MenuTrinfo was founded by Betsy Craig, who, after being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder, began a journey of paying close attention to how food impacted her health that led to the founding of the business. In this edition of MRM Talking With, Craig discusses the need for FASI and food allergen training in the foodservice industry.

We are saving lives and protecting health through the right foodservice solutions.

What is the background of organizing FASI?

For three years I was involved with AllergyEats, an organization that was hosting a conference for food service professionals interested in handling food allergies. When they stopped having their conference I knew there was still a real need to continue the education that they started. That became the starting point for FASI. From there, I added gluten-free management to the list of discussion topics and launched the FASI event.

Why is FASI both necessary and  important?

It is necessary to have a dedicated food allergies and gluten-free event because it needs more discussion than a panel at a state-level restaurant show or a regional food safety event.  While I speak consistently at those events, the conversation needs to develop at a deeper level.  This is important because we are saving lives and protecting health through the right foodservice solutions in restaurant and college/university settings.

Who attended FASI?

Professionals from restaurant, college, theme park, resort, and culinary college operations.

Betsy Craig
Betsy Craig

Is there an online component for those who did not attend? 

Sadly, no but we will be making an online group for the attendees as well as a list serv.

What is the mission of FASI and what do you hope to achieve?

FASI is there to educate and encourage all food service professionals to be special dietary needs heroes every single time someone comes to a foodservice establishment. We hope that through FASI, foodservice professionals have the necessary tools and solutions to meet the needs of their special dietary customers.

Brain Exchange session at FASI
Brain Exchange session at FASI

What are some top advice you can offer restaurateurs about dealing with food allergies?

Get trained, make sure you know your menu item products and ingredient lists and understand how one simple crumb can cost a guest their life. While we know this is a hard topic for the restaurateur it is even more difficult for the diner who just wants to eat, be safe and not end up in the ER.

What resources do you recommend for restaurateurs on the subject?

Obviously we love and suggest that foodservice operators set up a Google alert on food safety food allergies. Additionally, get help with your menu and don’t serve gluten-free items unless you are 100 percent sure they are gluten free. Handling this diner properly means bigger sales and done right, great profits.  It turns diners into regulars, truly.

What are some things you would like to see the restaurant industry do to help prevent food allergies?

Encourage the proper training and tools for the back and front of the house. Ask for help from other industry professionals and listen to the recommended best practices.

How important is training in food allergy prevention?

It is the No.1 first step. Even when you think you know in the commercial food service space there are gotchas, always be on your game and do not get caught off your mark.  The news media and consumers have long memories of food safety incidents and this is a major public health crisis in our industry.