By CEO Betsy Craig
I will never forget sitting in a meeting conducted by the USDA in Washington, DC in 2016. I flew in specifically for that meeting as it was an open discussion on food allergies and their impact on the food chain / food service industry. The main focus of the event back four years ago was to discuss the outcome of the CDC’s research on food allergy knowledge in the food service space. The full report goes in depth on why the study was done and what it found.
Food Allergies and the CDC Research Takeaways
I walked away with a ton of valuable information and felt ready to take this on headfirst. What became incredibly clear is that a lot of folks thought they already knew a lot about food allergies. There was some education out there in 2014/2015 but it was evident that this education was nowhere near enough. While everyone in the food service industry knows that consumers can be demanding, education and clear information on food allergies is critical and can be lifesaving.
Along with many takeaways, there was one huge statement that has stuck with me all these years. “Approximately one fourth of surveyed managers reported having no ingredient lists or recipes for menu items. Ingredient lists are important to help the staff determine which menu items contain common allergens.” This statement would change the future of my business.
The Birth of Certified Free From™
It dawned on me that I had the tools and power to create a seal that would certify a product as “free from” certain food allergens. I took this idea directly to a member of the USDA and discovered that I not only have the tools to do so but could be the leader in the industry for lifesaving information.
The advice he gave me was invaluable and MenuTrinfo®’s newest offering, Certified Free From™ (CFF), was born. This division had one goal: to give consumers with food allergies peace of mind when shopping for food so they know the product is safe to eat and add into a recipe at home. I got back to the office and built Kitchens with Confidence™, a division within MenuTrinfo® that handles all certification.
Consumers Care about Labels
Consumers care now more than ever before. According to Forbes, “Specialty used to mean rare or creatively different or from far away, handmade or nearly anything relating to cheese or chocolate. It still does but now it also often means organic, fair trade, gluten free, humanely raised and sustainably produced. “
A recent survey from FARE shows that a consumer purchasing a product in a grocery store will take between 5 to 7 minutes reading a single label to keep their food allergic family members safe. Launching the CFF seal for products began in 2018 but today the needs and interest have increased over 200% in the last 6 months alone.
So here we are with the CFF brand within MenuTrinfo® leading the way up and through COVID-19’s uneasy times. This is the perfect solution to showing consumers that your great food/ product has been tested to be safe. With Kitchens with Confidence™, we send an auditor at least once a year to check hundreds of steps along the way of you making that great food for their family to enjoy safely. Having a seal is a clear promise that you take their safety and food allergies seriously.