Category Archives: Food Allergies

Alter-NUT-ive Recipes for National Peanut Month!

Peanut allergies can be very serious, and never fun for anyone who suffers from them. Many might think that with a peanut allergy, you have to miss out on delicious treats but nowadays, that isn’t the case! Here are some peanut butter alternatives that you can consume safely, along with recipes to satisfy your nut butter craving!

Peanut Butter Alternatives

Almond Butter

Almond butter has a good source of omega-6 fatty acids and a better source of omega-3 fatty acids than peanut butter. Almonds are one of the healthiest nuts to consume because it has the highest concentration of nutrients per calorie and ounce.


Photo Credit: Pastry Affair

Photo Credit: Pastry Affair


Sunflower Seed Butter

If you need to keep away from all nuts in general, sunflower butter is a great alternative.



Cashew Butter

Cashew butter can be considered more of a treat than something you’d spread on sandwich because of how rich and decadent it is. Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful option to avoid peanuts.



Pumpkin Seed Butter

Pumpkin seed butter is considered a super food because of packing a ton of protein, fiber, potassium and beta-carotene.



Soybean Butter

Soy butters are safe for schools and try to mimic peanut butter as much as possible. Perfect for anyone with a nut allergy!



Sesame Butter (Tahini)

Sesame seeds are a great source of nutrients including calcium, magnesium, iron and fiber. Perfect for a mature palate, and healthy too!


Photo Credit: Delish

Photo Credit: Delish


Shop Central

With so many available recipes using alternative nut butters, peanut allergy sufferers don’t have to miss out anymore! From sweet to savory and everything in between there’s a recipe for you. In need of supplies to whip up your own nut butter recipes? Shop our wide variety of utensils, bakery supplies and more! Contact a Product Consultant for help, or chat with them live now!

food safety tips for holidays

Food Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

Food Safety

It’s that time of year again–the holiday season! While you are prepping food for your foodservice or for your traditional celebrations, it is important that food safety be a No. 1 priority. Below are some tips to keep your preparations safe during the holidays!

Proper Food Temperatures

Many foods must reach a certain internal temperature before they are safe for consumption. In order to meet food safety temperatures, said to be sure the foods below reach the following minimums on your thermometer three minute before serving. Also, if food has been sitting out at room temperature for two or more hours, it should be disposed. (Click image below to view larger version).Food Safety Temperatures

food safety glovesGloves and Handwashing

Proper handwashing is crucial to ensure food safety. Many foodservice establishments also require employees to wear plastic gloves during preparation. Just remember, each time you step away from preparing or serving food and touch another surface (cell phone, door handle, etc.), be sure to properly wash  your hands and change gloves.

To properly wash hands:

  1. Use soap and warm water (105°F)
  2. Rub hands vigorously for 20 seconds and wash all surfaces including the backs of hands, wrists, in between fingers and under nails
  3. Rinse hands thoroughly and turn off water and open doors with a paper towel to avoid cross-contamination

Electronic faucets and automatic hand dryers are a great way foodservices can be sure to avoid contact with any bacteria or germs after properly washing hands.

Cutting gloves are also available to ensure hands and fingers are safe while preparing foods.

Ways to Avoid Cross Contamination

Standard Color Codes

Items such as cutting boards, cutlery and ladles/tongs can all be color coded to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination.

food safety color codes

food allergy San Jamar saf-t-system

Allergen Color Codes

For customers or guests with food allergies, foodservice equipment and supply manufacturers have color-coded each of those products as purple. Only use purple color-coded food prep supplies for those with food allergies as one small trace of an allergen exposed to them can be serious.

San Jamar’s Allergen Saf-T-Zone System is a kit that includes most items needed to prepare a meal for a person with food allergies. If investing in this system, be sure to also purchase a purple allergen thermometer to go along with the set.

Food Labels

Rotation labels are also imperative for food safety to avoid food borne illnesses and cross contamination so employees know when foods will go bad but they also can help reign in food costs too.

Wash Foods Properly

It’s important to wash our hands frequently but that is not necessary for all foods.

“Washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb or veal before cooking is not recommended,” the USDA said. “Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils and surfaces. We call this cross-contamination.”

The USDA also advises not to wash eggs either as they have already been washed during commercial egg processing. After this process has occurred, which removes the natural coating on freshly laid eggs, they are given a light coating of an edible mineral oil that restores protection. Any additional washing of eggs the USDA said jeopardize this measure and could increase the risk of cross-contamination.

Produce, however, should be washed. Fruits and vegetables should be placed under cool running tap water to remove any lingering dirt and reduce bacteria.

“If there is a firm surface, such as on apples or potatoes, the surface can be scrubbed with a brush,” the USDA said. “These products are not approved or labeled by the FDA for use on foods. You could ingest residues from soap or detergent absorbed in the produce.”

When washing produce, they advise to cut away any damaged or bruised areas as bacteria can move and thrive there. Upon cutting any items, they must be placed in a refrigerator to ensure food safety.

Need Help?

Whether it’s finding equipment and supplies to help improve food safety, or needing help getting started, contact a Central product consultant at 800-215-9293 or use our live chat option!

Celebrate National Food Safety Month Year Round

Did you know that September is National Food Safety month? If you did not, it’s probably because a successful restaurant operator knows that food safety is important every month…every day…and every hour. Their customers and employees expect it.

2014 is the National Restaurant Association's 20th year of National Food Safety Month

2014 is the National Restaurant Association’s 20th year of National Food Safety Month

According to the NFSM website, the event was created in 1994 by the National Restaurant Association to heighten awareness about the importance of food safety education. Each year has a different theme and for 2014 they highlight ‘20 tips for 20 years of National Food Safety Month‘ through videos, posters and training materials.

Step By Step; Week By Week

All the materials are based in  ServSafe® Food Safety Training Programs and broken into four weeks of general themes: Week 1: Cleaning and Santiizing Week 2: Cross-Contamination Week 3: Time-Temperature Control Week 4: Personal Hygiene Week 5: Allergens Operators can use the videos and quizzes on the site to educate their employees about the issues in simple terms. For example, a week 1 video on Cleaning and Sanitizing explained how bar surfaces where drink garnishes are cut need to be treated the same as a kitchen food prep surface. The video continues by showing the steps to safely treat that surface. In week 2, the quiz asks a question to remind employees to always store fruits and vegetables above meats in the refrigerator to eliminate the possibility of cross-contamination from meat juices. Future weeks will also include poignant topics, including a video where people with food allergies talk about the dangers of allergic reactions from cross-contaminated or non-labeled ingredients in restaurant dishes.

An allergen kit includes separate utensils to use when working on an order with a specific allergen concern.

An allergen kit includes separate utensils to use when working on an order with a specific allergen concern.

More Information and Tools

Want to get your staff more involved in the program this month? Download the full 5 weeks of content in a PDF, or view the week-by-week activities on the NFSM website. And remember, Central Restaurant has all the supplies and tools your food service establishment needs to keep your employees and customers safe. Check out our selection of cleaning supplies, temperature control and allergen awareness, including the San Jamar Saf-T-Zone system to avoid cross-contamination.

Food Trend Blog

Top Food Trends at NRA 2014

Another NRA Show is in the books. If you attended, we hope you had a great show! The Central team had a chance to settle down from the excitement and share with you some of the top trends we saw coming out of the show.

Gluten-Free Foods

One of the biggest trends at NRA was gluten-free options. Of course, it has been gaining momentum for a couple of years now, but seeing what some companies are doing is really cool. Take for example, Kiki’s Gluten Free Foods. They introduced a gluten-free deep dish pizza, which a few years ago would’ve been unheard of. And Deya Gluten Free is making a gluten free flour where the main ingredient is dried egg whites. These new options should make life for people with Celiac disease or gluten allergies a lot better.

Natural Ingredients

As we start to see a more health-conscious consumer, it’s only natural to see healthier options being introduced. We saw a ton of healthy options, from burgers made with veggies and chia seeds to milk made with quinoa. Another popular trend was brands advertising products made with no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or corn syrup.

Better-For-You School Options

There are several companies trying to develop healthier options for school systems. According to Food Business News, exhibitors such as Skeeter Nut Free were introducing snacks that meet the USDA’s Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards that go into effect July 1st. In Skeeter Nut Free’s case, they introduced single-serve bags of graham crackers that are 100% nut free. Other exhibitors, such as Hormel, are offering options such as the Fuse Burger, which combines ground turkey with spinach, brown rice, roasted onions and dried cherries, to deliver a burger with a favorable nutrition profile.

Which trends did you see at NRA 2014 that stood out to you? Let us know in the comments section below.


National Peanut Month: Menu Trends, Servingware Ideas and Handling Allergies

National Peanut Month

When it comes to peanuts, restaurants have become more brave when it comes to creatively incorporating them in their menus. They can now be found on everything from hamburgers to desserts and the peanut has really become an interesting ingredient to a menu.

March is National Peanut Month, which is an opportunity for peanut fans all over to celebrate their love for it. Not only is it a beloved menu item, peanuts play an important role in the United States as it brings in money. Below are some fun facts about peanuts from the National Peanut Board:

  • To make a 12 ounce jar of peanut butter, it takes 540 peanuts
  • Peanuts account for two-thirds of all snack nuts consumed in America
  • $4 billion is contributed to the United States economy each year from peanuts
  • Annually Americans consume an average of 1.5+ billion pounds of peanut butter and products

Menu Trends: Peanut Butter Can Go On Anything

Restaurants are becoming more adventurous, especially when it comes to peanut butter. Some chefs like to put a unique twist on a classic favorite, such as peanut butter and jelly, while others just want to try peanut butter with anything to see what customers end up loving.

shewman burger scotty's brewhouse peanut butter

Scotty’s Brewhouse Shewman Special Burger

One of the really popular peanut butter trends in restaurants is to put it on a burger. Scotty’s Brewhouse, regional chain in Indiana, serves the award-winning burger, the “Shewman Special.” This burger has a unique combination of flavors consisting of peanut butter, jalapenos, cheddar cheese and bacon.  Customers are apprehensive about the burger at first, but once they try it, they are hooked.

The Shelter Lounge in Seattle, Wash. used peanut butter to create a unique twist on the jalapeno popper with their PB&J Jalapeno Poppers. The appetizer has a panko breading and is stuffed with cream cheese and peanut butter.  To add the final touch, it is served with a sweet, spicy jelly.

Pizza is another menu item, similar to burgers, that might be hard to wrap your head around at first when it comes to using peanut butter.  However John’s Incredible Pizza Co., a chain of restaurants in California and Oregon, has seemed to blow customers away with their Spicy Peanut Butter Pizza.

Perhaps one of the most dedicated restaurants to peanut butter is New York’s Peanut Butter & Co. This restaurant has it all when it comes to peanut butter from the Cinnamon Raisin Swirl™ sandwich (mix of cinnamon raisin peanut butter and vanilla cream cheese stuffed with crisp apple slices) to the PB&J Pretzel Sunday™ (crunchy pretzel pieces on vanilla ice cream, topped with peanut butter and a raspberry sauce). While they have other menu items as well, peanut butter-based items are a majority of what they serve.

servingware peanut butter items

Slate Dinnerware

Servingware Ideas

When mixing a menu up to include a unique item, such as a twist with peanut butter, restaurants should think about the presentation of the item. The size of a plate, platter, bowl, etc., or the presentation can assist with cost savings and can give an overall impression of the restaurant as a whole.

For a classic and sleek presentation for appetizers, Oneida’s Swoop Specialty Porcelain plates and platters will wow diners. They have a contemporary design and are bright white which allows the menu item to stand out.

Pair Swoop Specialty plates and platters with American Metalcraft’s square sauce cups or Squavy™ porcelain bowls for a unique shape. Melamine options are available too with the white sleek look with American Metalcraft’s square melamine serving bowls and platters, and their flared melamine bowls.

In terms of dinnerware, there are many sleek, classic lines such as World Tableware’s Cafe Royal and Slate or Oneida’s Arcadia and Espree.  For dinnerware with more of a personality or color, Homer Laughlin’s Fiesta® dinnerware is always a very popular line, but there is also World Tableware’s Montego Bay or Syracuse China’s Cantina dinnerware that provide durability and lots of color.

For a unique feel, World Tableware recently introduced their Farmhouse line of dinnerware which is organically shaped and crafted.

Handling Allergies

According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), up to 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies. The number of children with a peanut allergy has tripled from 1997 to 1998 and peanuts are one of the eight foods that account for 90 percent of allergic reactions.  Even one small trace can cause a reaction which is important for restaurants to be aware of.

peanut allergy safety system

San Jamar’s Allergen Saf-T-Zone System

One of the most important things restaurants can do when it comes to food allergies is to have procedures put in place for food allergies and train all employees. Restaurants should implement a color-coded system to avoid cross-contamination so certain foods do not come in contact with others.

Cutting boards, cutlery and cut-resistant gloves are some of the many things that can be implemented in a color-coded system. For restaurants that want to delve in even further to keep diners safe, San Jamar has their Allergen Saf-T-Zone system which is a kit to use specifically for those with allergies.

It’s also important to talk with diners to ensure your kitchen can meet their needs. If not, it is okay to say no as their life might be on the line if you cannot guarantee even a trace of peanuts will not be in their meal. In the procedures, ensure there is full communication with all staff members in the front and back of the house.  Last, never be offended when a customer might ask to speak with the manager or have a dish sent back.

What are some of your favorite peanut menu items, or what do you serve in your restaurant? Comment below!

school food service

Latest School Food Service News and Pre-Holiday Checklist

As the holiday season inches closer and closer, catch up on the latest school food service news and create a pre-holiday checklist.

school food serviceLatest School Food Service News

President Signs Bill To Increase EpiPens in Schools

With life threatening allergies on the rise, President Obama signed a bill on Wednesday November 13 to increase EpiPens in schools.  Read more from The Wall Street Journal.

FAME Award Winners Announced

Winners have been announced for the 25th annual Foodservice Achievement Management Excellence (FAME) Awards program.   Sandra Ford, SNS, director, Food and Nutrition Services of the Manatee County School District in Bradenton, Fla. won Golden Food Service Director of the Year. Read about this award and learn about other award winners from the School Nutrition Association.

Data Now Available for National School Lunch Participation and More

The USDA has updated data for Child Nutrition Tables. Learn about National School Lunch and School Breakfast participation, program costs, meals served and more on from the USDA.

Changes to National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services has proposed a rule “to amend the eligibility regulations for free and reduced price meals under the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program to codify the statutory provision that establishes the community eligibility provision, a reimbursement option for eligible local educational agencies and schools that wish to offer free school meals to all children in high poverty schools without collecting household applications.” Read the rule in it’s entirety or read a summarized version from the the School Nutrition Association.

Farm to School Month and School to Farm Census Results

October was the USDA’s Farm to School Month. During this year’s event, they released the first “Farm to School Census” from the 2011 to 2012 school year.  This study concluded there were over 38,000 schools with 21 million students serving over $350 million in local food.  Read more from the USDA and view the census results.

school food servicePre-Holiday Checklist

Replace Old Equipment

It is easy to ignore problems or or fail to keep up with routine maintenance when it comes to food service equipment–that is until something goes out completely.  Never wait until equipment is broken because in some cases it can take days for a service call to get resolved (which could be detrimental to your operation).  Take some time to review routine maintenance goals and replace equipment (or supplies) if necessary.

Review Food Safety Goals

Make sure school food service employees are following all food safety guidelines from proper handwashing techniques to cooking food thoroughly. Our Food Safety Resource Guide can help fill in any blanks and read articles about food safety on our blog.

Implement or Reassess Food Allergy Protocol

According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), one of every 13 children are affected by food allergies. Whether your school food service is very familiar with allergies, or is just learning how to implement procedures, it’s important to review your strategy.  In October, the CDC released “Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs” which is a great resource for schools of all levels.

school food serviceApply for Grants

Take advantage of potential free money to improve your school food service. Here are a  few grants currently available on a national level, be sure to search your area for local grants:

Analyze Food Buying Procedures

Take some time to review how much your school food service is buying and spending.  The National Food Service Management Institute of the University of Mississippi has created this helpful “Food Buying Guide” which is a calculator for the child nutrition programs.  It allows you to choose a type of food, serving size and number of servings then calculates how much should be purchased.  This is a free feature that doesn’t require (or even have) login information; simply print or email your list.


Prevent Cross-Contamination and Promote Food Safety with T&S Electronic Faucets

Food Safety and Cross-Contamination

Each September, the National Restaurant Association celebrates Food Safety Month. For 2013, they emphasized on allergic reactions and how to prevent them in customers.  Cross-contamination was one of the topics mentioned that can cause a person suffer from an allergic reaction.  It can be easy for cross-contamination to occur, as it is simply when a bacteria has been transferred from one item to another resulting in a foodborne illness or allergic reaction.

Each year, nearly one in six Americans becomes ill due to a foodborne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  When it comes to allergic reactions, the Association for Allergy Safety & Education defines it as one of the leading causes. Many easy steps can be taken to avoid cross-contamination, one of those being handwashing.

electronic faucetHandwashing

In a kitchen, workers handle several different types of food and can use a multitude of products to avoid cross-contamination from cutting boards to safety kits. However, if a person in a kitchen doesn’t properly wash hands from going from one item to the next, or touches a contaminated handle after properly washing hands, it can cause issues for customers.

Electronic Faucets: T&S’ Solution to Cross-Contamination

T&S Brass has been a leader in the foodservice and plumbing industry for over 65 years and never fails to invent innovative solutions. Their contamination-free electronic faucets are one of the ways they tie into food safety. T&S knew cross-contamination from handwashing was an issue, so they created the electronic faucet to ensure there wasn’t any physical contact during the handwashing process.  Once the sensor has been activated, the water begins to run.

In addition to preventing cross-contamination, T&S’ electronic faucets are easier to maintain than traditional faucets as they have fewer moving parts and potential leak points.  They also provide dramatic water savings because they only turn on when one’s hands have met the sensor.

These electronic faucets are an incredibly useful and health conscious tool for kitchens to ensure food safety.  By not touching the faucet to turn it on or off, restaurants and foodservices are removing any impurities brought to a sink.

In addition, foodservices will also appreciate how easy it is to install one of T&S’ electronic faucets, which can be found in this video. For more information on these electronic faucets, watch the video and visit our our website.

food allergies

National Food Safety Month: Food Safety Awareness on Food Allergies

Food Allergy Awareness

Each September is the National Restaurant Association’s “Food Safety Month.” This year they are putting an emphasis on food safety awareness in terms of food allergies. Over 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies, many of which are very serious and can be life threatening.  It’s important that members of the restaurant and foodservice industry understand how serious these allergies are and what measures can be taken to ensure a safe meal for customers.

Of the millions of American who suffer from food allergies, Food Allergy Research and Education said 90 percent of food allergies come from peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. Those who have one of these, or any of the other allergies, can see symptoms anywhere from a few minutes after contact to even several hours after. In some extreme situations, action must be taken quickly.

food allergies

Impact on Restaurants and Color Coding for Prevention

With food allergies becoming more prevalent, the foodservice industry is having to adapt to ensure the safety for their guests. Now more than ever menus are becoming more detailed to help customers with food allergies avoid certain dishes. However, it goes beyond informing a guest of an ingredient to protect them from a serious reaction.

Avoiding cross-contamination is crucial. Even a trace of an item in a dish can pose serious risks to someone. One of the best ways to avoid cross-contamination is to have a color system set up in the back of the house. Many suppliers have created color coded products such as cutting boards, knives and gloves, to ensure specific items are only used with the correlating food. These colors are only placed in certain areas of the kitchen and never moved. For instance anything red would be used in the butcher’s area and anything white would stay in the bakery.

Colors for the cross-contamination color system include:

  • Red: Meat
  • Yellow: Poultry
  • Green: Fruits and Vegetables
  • Tan/Brown: Fish and Seafood
  • Blue: Cooked Foods
  • White: General Use
  • Purple: Allergy

food allergiesMisconceptions and Proper Communication

Another important thing for restaurants to remember is to communicate properly. In a June 2012 blog, Sloane Miller, MSW, LMSW, author and advocate (, told us it’s all about communication on both ends–from the person with the allergy and the staff.

Miller explained if a customer comes to a restaurant, and that restaurant doesn’t feel they can 100 percent accommodate their needs, it’s okay to tell them that. If a restaurant has knowledge about food allergies, they need to know they are important and must be taken seriously. One of the biggest misconceptions Miller explained was that “a little bit won’t hurt.”

A breakdown of communication is another way mistakes happen.  For instance a waiter may relay the message a customer has a shellfish allergy that doesn’t get passed down the line.  Someone could have just prepared a dish and sent it off, and another person may prepare the customer with a food allergy’s dish in the same area. Small traces of shellfish could accidentally be included in the entree causing an immediate reaction. This is why the color system is important for kitchens.


The best way to handle any situation is to become informed. The National Restaurant Association recommends the ServSafe® Allergens Online course and assessment.  It covers many areas including identifying allergens, communication, cross-contamination prevention, food labels and more.

food allergiesProducts

Central has several products to help restaurants and foodservices stay organized and prepared for guests with food allergies.

One of the most recent items we’ve added is San Jamar’s Allergen-Saf-T-Zone™ System.  This system is a kit that includes a cutting board, tongs, turner and chef’s knife which allows restaurants to only use this kit for customers with food allergies.

Central also offers San Jamar’s Allergen Saf-T-Zone™ cutting boards in a variety of widths and depths. These boards have rulers to make portioning easy and list out the eight different foods that should not be used for quick reference. This is the same board included in the Allergen-Saf-T-Zone™ System.

Our Value Series line of products includes an allergen thermometer.  It’s purple color alerts kitchen staff to only use it for special food allergen preparation. There is an empty space in the Allergen-Saf-T-Zone™ System for a thermometer making this one a great buy to fit in with the purple scheme.

Learn about other ways to avoid cross-contamination on our Cross-Contamination Prevention Guide.  You can also contact a product consultant at 800-215-9293 for help finding food allergy solutions for your restaurant.