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Food Services Earns Nut-Free Certification, Continues to Make Dining Safer for Those with Food Allergies
Students with peanut and some tree-nut allergies can feel safer now, more than ever, while eating in Syracuse University’s dining centers. That’s because Food Services’ Production Kitchen and cook chill facility, located in the Commissary, recently became “certified free from” peanut and tree nut (except coconut) allergens by Kitchens with Confidence (KwC) by MenuTrinfo. KwC is a leading allergen and gluten-free auditing and accreditation firm; the Commissary is where most of the food served on campus is made.
“Food safety is one of our highest concerns, and we continually strive to ensure the safety of our food. Employees are ServSafe trained and we use HACCP [Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point] principles to reduce the risk of hazards in food,” says Jim Ponzi, associate director of production and commissary operations. “The KwC certification is an additional step that we are happy to accommodate to guarantee our students’ well-being.”
Food Services has a robust program to reduce the risk to students with food allergies, including independent verification. Three years ago, Food Services began working to make dining centers safer for students with allergies by eliminating foods with peanuts and tree nuts from its recipes. In January 2018, KwC audited four dining centers to become gluten-free certified. The fifth, Brockway Dining Center, received its gluten-free certification after last summer’s renovation of the facility. It was during the gluten-free certification process that KwC recommended measures Food Services could take to become “certified free from” peanut and tree nut (except coconut) allergens for the Cook-Chill facility and production kitchen.
Knowing the certification would make the University’s dining program stronger, the Food Services team was driven to meet these recommendations as quickly as possible. Registered dietitian Ruth Sullivan immediately went to work to attain the accreditation by setting up new policies and training staff. Signage was also created to remind all staff of strict policies: thorough hand washing, wearing new gloves and a clean uniform when entering the area, and monitoring equipment in and out of the area.
KwC followed up with an audit of the Cook-Chill facility and Production Kitchen checking 20 main components with over 100 specific critical control points. The assessment included a review of the current policies established for receiving, storage, approving suppliers, manufacturing process, allergen cleaning program, and staff training and education. To earn the status of “certified free from” peanut and tree nut (expect coconut) allergens, the cook chill and production kitchen facilities had to satisfy enough check points to warrant a passing score. In addition, weekly food allergen testing is done by Food Services staff to maintain adherence to guidelines.
This is another step in making sure Food Services serves food that is nutritious, delicious and safe. “We hope that this makes our students with allergies feel more at ease and welcome in our dining centers,” Sullivan says.