Edible Notes

Eat More Safely with Menu Allergenie

By Wendy Dager / Photography By Fran SP Gealer | June 18, 2015
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It didn’t take long for vegan Xena Grossman to learn that her infant daughter, whom she was breastfeeding, was allergic to soy. So Grossman was vigilant about asking restaurants’ wait staff about ingredients in dishes prior to ordering. When her daughter once again had an allergic reaction from a dish Grossman was told had no soy, she knew there had to be a better way to protect consumers with food allergies.

Currently, only four states—Massachusetts. Michigan, Rhode Island and Virginia—have laws intended to make it safer for people with food allergies to eat in restaurants, according to the Food Allergy Research and Education website (FoodAllergy.org). While not foolproof, these laws are a precaution we Californians don’t have.

A registered dietitian and bundle of energy, Grossman’s solution was to found Menu Allergenie, a cloud-based software database a year in creation that allows diners to filter out restaurants’ menu items that could trigger food allergies or contain ingredients they simply don’t care to eat. Diners use a tablet at the restaurant or their smartphones to access the program, and don’t need to download anything.

Currently in use at Farmer and the Cook, the software is in beta stage as Grossman gets more feedback to make it as user-friendly as possible.

“It’s a beautiful program,” says Olivia Chase, co-owner of the Meiners Oaks restaurant. “It’s easy to use and well thought out. Xena is very thorough.”

To get this information to diners’ fingertips, Chase entered the restaurant’s menus, ingredients and information about shared cooking surfaces into Menu Allergenie’s system.

A clever alert system results in two alerts popping up for Farmer and the Cook’s Veggie Burger and Mixed Green Salad for diners electing to avoid dairy: “Ask your server to hold the Jack cheese,” and “Cross contact likely. Sourdough wheat bread and patty cooked on the same grill as dairy.”

Grossman sees Menu Allergenie as a simple, effective way for restaurants to better serve their clientele’s needs, and for customers to easily access critical information about common food allergens prior to placing an order.

“I’ve had a lot of positive responses,” says Grossman. “I’m hoping it becomes what’s expected—there’s enough demand from the customers—that it should be in every restaurant in the country.”

For more info, visit MenuAllergenie.com.

Article from Edible Ojai & Ventura County at http://edibleventuracounty.ediblecommunities.com/eat/eat-more-safely-menu-allergenie
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