Study Shows Restaurant Staff Probably Knows Little About Your Food Allergies

Clueless Waitress

A study published in the journal PLOS One confirms what most families coping with food allergies already know: most of the staff at restaurants know little about food allergies.

Researchers at the University of Düsseldorf devised a food allergy knowledge test and administered it via interviews to 295 restaurant staffers from 15 districts of Düsseldorf, Germany. Of those, nearly half were servers, nearly half had received food allergy training, and 89% were confident they could provide accurate information regarding allergy-friendly meals.

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The results were harrowing: 18% of respondents couldn’t identify a single allergen while just 30% were able to correctly name common three food allergens. Only 41% could answer all five of the following true/false questions correctly:

QuestionCorrect AnswerProportion That Answered Correctly
Customers with food allergies can safely consume a small amount of that foodfalse82.37%
Cooking, for example frying, can stop a food from causing allergiesfalse83.73%
A food allergy reaction can cause deathtrue90.17%
If a customer is having an allergic reaction they should be served cold water to dilute the allergenfalse65.42%
Removing an allergen from a finished meal, e.g. removing the nuts, may be all that is necessary to provide a safe meal for a food allergy customerfalse82.71%
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The respondents’ attitudes toward food allergies were also tested during the interview with the following questions:

QuestionProportion Agreeing
Service staff should be knowledgeable about food allergies96.61%
Kitchen staff should be knowledgeable about food allergies97.29%
It is my responsibility if people with food allergies have reactions at my premises67.24%
I believe some food allergies indicated by the customers are not true41.78%
It is the customers’ responsibility to express their food allergy needs91.53%
I would prefer not to serve customers with food allergies19.05%
The entire restaurant staff must collaborate closely to meet the needs of customers with food allergies94.58%

The study concluded:

Food allergy knowledge was suboptimal among restaurant staff and attitudes towards customers were rather poor. While we identified some determinants, additional studies are needed to systematically examine potential determinants for targetting educational interventions in the future.

The results were in keeping with similar results in the US reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2017.


We at SnackSafely.com urge all our readers with food allergies that plan to dine out to call ahead and discuss your allergies with the restaurant manager and/or head chef, and discuss with them again with the manager and waitstaff your arrival. If the conversations do not leave you with confidence they can accommodate your food restrictions, trust your instincts and do not dine there.

CDC Report on Restaurant Food Allergy Practices Not Encouraging

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