Allergies & Advisories: Menu Mistakes

Undercooked animal products carry an increased risk of foodborne illness.

Of course, no restaurant ever intends to get anyone sick. Sometimes, it’s out of their hands; but in the circumstance a customer does feel sick, you want to make sure your business is protected. Even sushi, which is generally considered safe, can cause foodborne illness more often than fully cooked seafood. Certain populations are more vulnerable to this type of illness. Vulnerable groups include the elderly, pregnant women, babies, and people with compromised immune systems.

According to LiveStrong, “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 2009 Food Code allows food service establishments to serve raw or undercooked foods at a customer’s request as long as the customer is informed about the risks associated with consuming undercooked food”.”

What item require a consumer advisory on the menu?

A consumer advisory is required when serving raw or undercooked animal products, the list includes but is not limited to:

  1. Rare or medium-rare steak

  2. Uncooked types of sushi

  3. Raw eggs

  4. Unprocessed milk

  5. Undercooked chicken

  6. Undercooked seafood

  7. Undercooked pork

  8. Undercooked ground beef

  9. Undercooked lamb

Who is at risk?

Anyone can develop a foodborne illness. But those who are very young, very old, pregnant, or have compromised immune systems are at a higher risk. Symptoms of a foodborne illness can seem like the many other common illnesses, which can cause some confusion before the cause becomes more obvious.

Rules vary from state to state, so check your local laws and regulations, but most have regulatory guidelines about how and where to place warnings.

Are there any unexpected risky foods?

According to Mashed, there are some foods that are simply riskier to serve than others. Sprouts and loose greens, even those you might grow at home, are apparently incredibly risky.

Sprouts have been responsible for as many as 30 outbreaks of food poisoning since 1996.

If you can avoid them as garnish, it might be best. They tend to grow in damp wet areas; the same climate E. Coli loves. Other things like grouper, barracuda, sea bass, sturgeon, and moray eel, are the types of fish most likely to cause ciguatera fish poisoning, which in turn can make the person eating it VERY sick.

Cantaloupe also has a reputation when it comes to the spread of bacteria. The cantaloupe’s skin, and the rough texture traps harmful bacteria.

In short, being safe in your warnings and business practices is important. We all know that, but forgetting to include one simple sentence on your menu can cost you BIG time if someone gets sick.


Researchers estimate that 32 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.6 million children under age 18.

It is important to consider allergy warnings on high risk items. Of course, you can’t list every possible allergen on every dish. There are some common ones though. Things like dairy, peanuts, eggs, and gluten.

Make sure your menus show when something has an unexpected secret ingredient. Most people would not expect a pasta sauce to include peanut butter; but if that’s the way your grandma made it, let us know. Better safe than in anaphylactic shock on your restaurant floor.

Menus can include general warnings. For example, Five Guys includes a warning in multiple places that every item on their menu has had contact with peanut oil. They don’t list it on every item, that would look silly.

A copywriter can easily make a menu flow even including these warnings. We have people who can help you keep your aesthetic while also being safe and protected. Feel free to review some of those options here.

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