Last edited 05/25/2023

Q: Are dining employees trained on food allergen awareness? 

A: Yes! Special Dietary Needs Awareness and Cross-Contact Minimization training are key components to our approach.  

Our directors, chefs, and managers are required to complete the in-depth FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) certified Food Allergy and Celiac Disease Training annually. 

Our hourly workers are required to complete annual food allergy awareness training led by our team of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists.  

Additionally, we re-train employees utilizing a continuous education approach by discussing special dietary needs in our day-to-day activities as well as at our daily pre-shift meetings in each café. 



Q: Are the Major Allergens labeled in dining?   

A: Yes! We communicate about the nine most common food allergens through quick reference icons (below). You can find these icons on our online menus and daily café signage.  

Top 9 Food Allergens
Top 9 Food Allergens

We also utilize what we call “descriptive menu nomenclature.”  We make sure that the name of the dish, or its restaurant-style description — which are listed on our online menus and cafe signage — reference any cooking methods (such as frying) which may increase the risk for cross-contact. This provides many students with much of the information they need while also letting them know when they may need to ask further questions. 



Q: Can I filter the online menu to exclude items that contain my allergies? 

A: Yes! Using our online menu you can use the filters dropdown to exclude menu items that are labeled with any of the above allergens. 



Q: Are there any specific allergy-friendly stations on campus? 

A: Yes! The SimplyOASIS station features meals that celebrate fresh and simple single ingredients while avoiding all of the Major 9 Allergens + gluten.  

We have developed very specific and flavorful recipes built upon singular ingredients that are typically safe for food-allergic people. The SimplyOASIS station is a convenient choice — but not the only choice — for those with allergies to any of the major 9 food allergens and those choosing to avoid gluten. 



Q: I understand you use allergen icons, but do you list ingredients?   

A: Yes! Our online menus will have all whole ingredients and sub ingredients of house-made products listed for each menu item. We cook from scratch, using whole seasonal ingredients, so this strategy covers the vast majority of our menu items fully.  

Purchased sub ingredient information will not be listed online. This information will always be available within our café upon request. This allows us to provide the most up to date information to our guests in real time. 



Q: Why not list sub ingredients for purchased products?   

A: Ingredient/product formulations change frequently without notice from the manufacturer. 

The kitchens at the University of Pennsylvania handle ~2,000 – 2,500 products on a weekly basis making label review upon each delivery virtually impossible.  

Most universities that list ingredient and/or allergen information do so based on a product screening that is conducted at various times throughout the year (usually once or twice annually) but not upon every delivery/use of that product. Therefore these statements are also followed by disclaimers stating the nutrition and allergy information is approximate, based on product and recipe data, and intended to be used only as a guide. Many also state that students with food allergies should talk with the dining services team. 



Q: What are my responsibilities as a student? 

A: If you have a food allergy, take action! 

We are here to support your food allergy needs. To fully benefit from this support, we ask that you participate in the management of your food allergies in the following ways. 

  • Self-identify. Reach out to our Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to connect with the Bon Appetit management team. Sarah Goff, RDN We also ask that you reach out to Disability Services to work through the university’s accommodation process as needed.  
  • Get to know your chefs and managers. This may start with an individual meeting to discuss your needs, establish a plan, and make sure you are connected. Then going forward, you’ll know who to ask when questions arise. Our chefs and managers understand the importance of your food allergy. Please direct all ingredient questions to a chef or manager. 
    • Be savvy in self-managing your food allergy. 
    • Recognize common food sources of your allergen(s) and work to avoid them. 
    • Recognize the symptoms of your allergic reaction. 
    • Know your treatment plan in case of accidental exposure. 
    • Know when to ask for help. 
    • Never return to your residence hall alone if you suspect you are having a reaction. 
  • Always carry medication(s) and emergency contacts with you in case of accidental exposure. Please note that Bon Appétit cannot store personal medications and in the event of an exposure, quick access to medication(s) can be lifesaving. 
  • Read menu signage. When in doubt about any ingredients, seek out a Bon Appetit manager or chef who can answer your questions. More detailed ingredient information, including package label review, can be provided upon request. 
  • Take steps to avoid cross-contact. Cross-contact occurs when one food touches another food and the proteins mix, introducing potential allergen(s), and can result in accidental exposure. Minimizing cross-contact is a priority in our kitchens, but here are a few things for you to consider: 
    • Make selections from served stations. 
    • If choosing from a self-serve area, talk to a chef or manager for the best options to avoid cross-contact. Self-serve areas put you at substantial risk of cross-contact from other guests. 
    • In either service style, you may also ask for a portion from a batch of food that has not been on the service line. 
    • Ask dining employees to change their gloves and to use a new utensil and fresh pan at made-to-order stations. 
    • Avoid eating deep-fried foods. Fry oil may be used for multiple types of foods; this can lead to cross-contact with foods previously cooked in the fryer. 
  • Keep an open dialogue. Let our management team know what is working well and what’s not — we’re always open to modifying the plans we’ve put in place with you. If we do not hear from you, we believe that you are successfully navigating the dining facilities.  



Q: If I have a question while in the café, can I ask someone for more details?  

A: Please do! With any special dietary need, we emphasize the critical role that direct communication plays in safely feeding our guests. Each student must determine their own level of comfort when making selections within our cafés. If a student has a question about a menu item while in our café, they can ask one of our managers. A student can also discuss all possible modifications with the manager. We will do our best to honor all requests, within reason. 

Ingredient and allergen information is provided for informational purposes in response to guest requests. Products may change without our knowledge and menu items are prepared in close proximity to other ingredients that may introduce cross-contact with ingredients not listed. We cannot assure against these contingencies. Guests with food allergies or specific dietary concerns should speak with a manager for individualized assistance. 



Q: Where can I find a manager during mealtimes? 

A: We always have managers within each of our cafés and on the floor during mealtimes.  

Therefore, if a student has a question about a menu item while in a café, they can ask any staff member to speak with a manager and they will be directed to the correct person. A student can also discuss all possible modifications with the manager at that time. We will do our best to honor all requests, within reason. 



Q: What if I’m concerned about cross-contact at the serving station? 

A: If ever concerned with cross-contact at our self-serve stations, served stations, or our made-to-order stations, please speak with a manager to request portions of that food served directly from the kitchen batch. 

We train our staff on minimizing cross-contact at the serving station. However, when different menu items are served in such close proximity to each other, we acknowledge students’ concerns regarding the potential for cross-contact. Our managers are happy to serve any student a portion of food from the kitchen batch.  



Q: What about nuts specifically? 

A: Within our residential cafés, we do not cook with or add peanuts, tree nuts, nut-based milks, or nut-based oils (except coconut) to our menu items; however, products may change without our knowledge. 

To be more specific, within our residential cafés we have: 

  • Eliminated purchases of all peanut/tree nut varieties, with the exceptions listed below 
  • Eliminated ice cream purchases with peanuts/tree nuts in the contains statement 
  • Eliminated dessert products with peanuts/tree nuts in the contains statement  
  • Sourced bread items from dedicated peanut/tree nut-free facilities, which are available upon request 
  • Sourced dessert items from dedicated peanut/tree nut-free facilities, which are available upon request 
  • Peanut butter is only available in individually sealed packets 

However, there are places students may find peanuts and/or tree nuts within dining:  

  • Individually sealed packets of peanut butter 
  • Purchased breads and desserts may come from suppliers that use a shared facility; however, we provide alternatives that come from dedicated peanut-/tree-nut-free facilities upon request 
  • Nut milks are available for students who need a non-dairy alternative. These are kept in their original cartons and accessed at the beverage station. Nut milks are not used in the preparation of any menu items. 
  • Coconut may be used to prepare certain international dishes (e.g. salmon with Thai-style green curry – lightly seared salmon with vegetables finished with house-made coconut curry sauce). Dishes using coconut will be tagged with a tree nut icon. 

We cannot guarantee these allergens have not been introduced during a previous stage of the food preparation process or through accidental cross-contact from outside sources, and we will not:    

  • Eliminate coconut or products containing coconut 
  • Screen vendor substitutions 
  • Screen products for voluntary statements with exception of those coming from a dedicated facility as indicated above. Students concerned about voluntary statements may review package labels at any point.  
  • Eliminate the risk of other guests bringing in peanut/tree nut products 
  • Manage potential for cross-contact between guests using nut products  



Q: What about products that contain soybean oil or soy lecithin?  

A: Out of an abundance of caution, menu items containing soybean oil and/or soy lecithin are labeled with a soy icon. Package labels are available for guests to review upon request; please speak with a manager to review. 



Q: Are gluten free breads available?  

A: Yes! Breads, bagels, and burger buns made without gluten containing ingredients are stored in dedicated cases within our residential dining cafes. Please feel free to speak with a manager to help find this dedicated case within the cafe.  



Q: Does Penn Dining stock epinephrine in the cafes? 

A: Penn Dining does not stock epinephrine in the cafes. Students who have been prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector are strongly encouraged to always carry it with them.


Q: What if I still have questions about how Penn Dining handles food allergies, can I talk to someone?

A: Definitely! Our Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is always available to speak with students and their parents. To schedule a phone call, virtual meeting, or in-person meeting please email Sarah Goff, RDN