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​Allergy-Sensitive Restaurants On The Rise

|Includes: Soupman Inc. (SOUPQ)

It's difficult living with food allergies, much more finding a place where you can eat in peace without fear of accidentally ingesting an allergen.

But more and more restaurants are now practicing extra precautions, including coming up with allergen charts to ensure the safety of their patrons.

A recent report of NY1 detailed how restaurants like Gastronomia Culinaria are learning more about food allergies and how to prepare menus for at least two percent of adult Americans and five percent of children who have food allergies.

The restaurant's owner Vicenzo Pezzilli and his staff started learning how to prepare a food allergy course, citing a noticeable increase in customers with allergies.

His observation is not an isolated case. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that there had been a 50 percent increase in food allergies in children from 1997 to 2011.

Pezzilli's group is learning from Hudson Allergy on how to handle phone inquiries from customers with allergies and how to ensure that there is no cross contamination of ingredients during food preparation.

Hudson Allergy co-founder Dr. Tim Mainardi said there should be an easy way for restaurants to manage customers with food allergies even before they enter the restaurant.

"People who feel comfortable going to a restaurant because they take them seriously are far more likely to go back to that restaurant and bring their friends with them," he said.

That and the assurance that all their customers are safe have prompted Pezzilli to consider changing their menu to highlight ingredients that are often causes of allergic reaction.

"Even if it is a little bit of a headache, it's better to be safe than sorry," he told NY1.

But some restaurants like The Original Soupman (OTC:SOUP) have already come up with their own "allergen chart" that details each menu item's allergy-causing ingredients.

Their website has a copy of the chart, which lists down the restaurant chain's almost 40 variants of soup and which ones have milk, wheat, soy, eggs, fish, crustacean, mollusk, peanuts and tree nuts.

The chart shows that most of their soups have milk, wheat and soy. Only their borscht, fruit cornucopia, gazpacho, mushroom barley, and veg veg do not have milk while dishes without wheat include borscht, butternut squash, cream of asparagus, cucumber mint, fruit cornucopia gazpacho, Manhattan clam, tomato zucchini, veg veg, tomato basil soup man, tomato wild rice, and so many beans.

On the other hand, those without soy are borscht, cucumber mint, fruit cornucopia, gazpacho, Manhattan clam, seafood gumbo and turkey chili.

Soupman doesn't have fish and peanuts on its menu so those with such allergies are safe. Only a handful of the items have crustacean and mollusk while mulligatawny soup has almonds, which is considered a tree nut.

The chart also lists lesser known ingredients that may cause allergies.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the most common and severe allergens are peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish.

The US already has its Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act but it does not require restaurants to have allergen charts or for its staff to learn how to prepare allergen-safe food.

Much can be learned from the European Union's allergen labeling law, which will come into effect in December 2014. It expands existing allergen regulations to the food service sector, including restaurants and cafes. Such establishments are required to track allergens that are most prevalent in Europe, including celery, cereal with gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, lupin, milk, mollusks, mustard, peanuts, sesame seeds, soya and sulphur dioxide, which is used to preserve dry fruits.