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K-State researchers use testimonials to educate restaurant managers about food allergy dangers

 K State researchers use testimonials to educate restaurant managers about food allergy dangers

a research team at K-State is finding ways to educate future restaurant managers and employees about food allergies. whether it comes from the sea, a plant or an animal, allergic reactions to foods can be dangerous and sometimes fatal.

According to the International Food Information Council’s official website, an allergic reaction occurs when the body’s immune system has recognized an allergen in a food and treats it as a foreign invader. This response activates antibodies in order to attack or stop the perceived invader. Symptoms appear most commonly in the mouth as swelling of lips and tongue, diarrhea and other digestive upset, hives on skin and swelling of airways, leading to wheezing or asthma-like symptoms.

a news release by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network states that one in 25 Americans reports having some sort of food allergy. The most common allergic reactions are to cow’s milk, peanuts and seafood/shellfish.

The network’s founder and CEO, Anne Munoz-Furlong, said in the news release, “Studies show that reactions in restaurants are often caused by lack of staff education about food allergy. In a number of situations, the guests did not inform the staff of their allergy. Serving guests with food allergies requires staff education and clear communication between guests and staff.”

Dianna Schalles, nutritionist at Lafene Student Health Center, said in an email interview people with food allergies should call the restaurant ahead of time to see if they can accommodate their needs.

“Let your server know about your allergy and talk to a manager,” Schalles said. “Also, understand if they are not able to provide on-the-spot ingredient lists as their inventory changes often.”

K-State researchers are currently working on a project to educate and train managers and employees in the food industry to better recognize and serve customers with food allergies. According to a news release by Jennifer Tidball of Marketing and Communications at K-State, $140,000 has been awarded in the form of a U.S. Department of Agriculture Higher Education Challenge Grant. This money will be used to fund the research efforts of two associate professors in hospitality management and dietetics, Junehee Kwon and Kevin Sauer.

“Our current project targets future restaurant and foodservice managers and staff; students in hospitality management and dietetics programs,” Kwon said in an email interview. “We hope use of storytelling media will increase effectiveness of this effort … By recognizing and hearing stories of those who are afflicted by food allergies, educators may be more aware of need to educate their students.”

their study involves using testimonials, or storytelling media, to educate students. Sauer said he got the idea to use testimonials when he read about the book “Josie’s Story” on josieking.org. According to Sauer, it details the case of 18-month-old Josie King, who suffered first- and second-degree burns after crawling into a hot bath and later died under medical supervision at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital. The cause of death was determined to be dehydration and wrongly-administered narcotics.

Sauer said King’s mother returned to Johns Hopkins after the incident and sat in on a medical conference, where she confronted them about her daughter’s death.

“Her testimonial happened to be accidentally taped,” Sauer said. “[That tape] has been used now in training and education programs in hospitals across the country to save many lives.”

This case inspired Sauer and Kwon to gather testimonials of individuals who have experienced allergic reactions from the website of a company called Ecolab. these stories were used as a part of seed data in order to receive the grant.

“Permission was given for us to use these testimonials, which were given to actors to read in front of a camcorder,” Sauer said. “We then administered a test before and after viewing. it was found that testimonials, rather than stuffing people full of knowledge they may or may not retain, greatly increased the audience’s retention of the dangers of food allergies.”

The goal for Sauer and Kwon’s research is to produce videos and teaching modules including the testimonials to be used across the country in classrooms and training for those in the restaurant and food industry.

“The education modules will include all instructional materials and storytelling media clips we will also develop based on true stories,” Kwon said. “Knowing how food allergies afflict individuals and their families will help motivating our students who may or may not know about difficulties these individuals face every day.”

YouTube “What I Wish you Knew about my Food Allergies” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STabBr7cVJk   

K-State researchers use testimonials to educate restaurant managers about food allergy dangers

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