Food Allergies and Intolerances
Penn State Campus Dining will continue to offer multiple resources to ensure guests with food allergies and intolerances dine safely, despite change to menu offerings and service style related to COVID-19.
Students with special dietary needs (food allergies, intolerances, conditions necessitating specialized diets, etc.) will continue to be accommodated in our residential dining facilities. We are planning some menu modifications at open-up to streamline the process of meal service and facilitate physical distancing. Despite this streamlining, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and allergen-friendly items will continue to be served. Our most heavily-used accommodations will still be in place, including our online menu which displays ingredients and allergens in dishes served, and our entree cards which provide point of service signage signaling allergens present in our dishes (more information about these below.)
We are asking that students will special dietary needs participate in our advance notification system so that we can have special items ready for students when they are ready to eat. This will limit wait times, and ensure that we're providing an accurate, safe meal to each student. This year, more than ever, communication between students with special dietary needs and Food Services staff will be paramount. We encourage students to contact our Registered Dietitian's Office at [email protected] to make a plan for navigating dining this fall.
Food Allergen Management at Penn State
The Registered Dietitians, of Culinary Support Services at Penn State, are Certified Master Trainers (CMT) in AllerTrain by MenuTrinfo. As such, the dietitians then train all Campus Dining staff and select students to become certified in AllerTrain.
Additionally, food allergen management refresher trainings are given annually to all Campus Dining staff by the Certified Master Trainers.
To ensure allergens of food served are known and communicated to guests, Penn State uses the following practices:
- Centralized ordering and warehousing
- Database cataloging food items ordered and associated allergens
- Refusal of substitutes from vendors unless explicitly approved by the Registered Dietitian’s Office
To increase safety and transparency of food items, Penn State also employs point of service labeling, online menus with allergen designations, knowledgeable management staff, strict adherence to approved recipes, and accessible Registered Dietitians.
Entree Cards and Online Menu
Entree cards display allergen information of menu items and are prominently displayed in dining commons across campus. The top eight allergens, of dairy, egg, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts (including coconut), soy, wheat/gluten and sesame, are represented by individual icons on entree cards if found within a menu item.
Guests can also use the online menu to search for allergens and nutritional information. For assistance with accessing allergen information online, please visit foodservices.psu.edu/using-todays-menu.
Campus Dining recognizes that allergic reactions can occur to foods outside of these common allergens. Customers with allergies or intolerances to any food are encouraged to contact [email protected] for additional support and resources.
Temporary Entree Cards
Although Penn State chefs and staff adhere to standardized recipes, last minute changes to ingredients may occur. In these instances, a temporary green entree card is placed to alert guests that the recipe has not been properly reviewed by a Registered Dietitian for allergen and special dietary concerns. Customers with food allergies or special dietary restrictions are urged to use caution with consumption of these menu items and seek assistance from a staff member for specific ingredient information.
Campus Dining staff receives annual food allergy training and takes every precaution to prevent cross-contact during service, including using separate serving utensils for each food item and keeping service areas clean. However, cross-contact is still a possibility in shared preparation spaces and self-service dining areas.
To minimize exposure to allergens, guests are encouraged to:
- Contact [email protected] to learn more about dining accommodations
- Notify a manager of allergies and intolerances
- Ask staff to change gloves and utensils before preparing the order
- Request a portion of food from a backup pan (including salad bar, deli station, ice cream, and cereal containers)
- Call ahead to have an order specially prepared with attention to specific food allergens. For contact information of each dining commons, visit foodservices.psu.edu/dining-commons
- Carry a prescribed epinephrine auto-injector at all times
A dining station in The Commons at East Food District that is free of common food allergens including dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (excluding coconut), fish, shellfish, soy, wheat/gluten, and sesame. The station includes a separate kitchen and cooking equipment to prevent any allergen/gluten cross-contact. Dining hours for PURE can be found through foodservices.psu.edu/east-food-distract-findlay-commons.
Join the Listserv
Those dining on campus with a severe food allergy or intolerance should consider joining the email listserv to stay informed of potential recipe or ingredient changes and receive important reminders and tips for safe dining. To join the listserv, send a blank email to [email protected]
Food Allergy Disclaimer
Penn State Campus Dining makes every effort to label food allergens; however manufacturers may change product formulation or consistency of ingredients without notifying Penn State. Also, Campus Dining food items are prepared in shared kitchen spaces and do pose a risk for cross-contact. Therefore, it is ultimately the responsibility of the customer to judge whether or not to question ingredients and/or to choose to eat selected foods.
Guests with food allergies must be their own advocates and exercise caution at all times. Customers who may need to use an Epi-Pen should carry their own Epi-Pen while dining. Penn State Campus Dining will not assume any liability for adverse reactions of foods consumed or for any cross-contact that can and inevitably occurs within a self-service venue. To inquire about ingredients and food preparations, please contact the Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, Katy Petrosky and Lauren Sgriccia at [email protected], and/or a dining services manager.