[The interview portion of this AllergyEats Blog entry was conducted by Adrienne Walkowiak]
Earlier this Spring, Wendy’s added a new Asian Cashew Chicken Salad to their nationwide menu. After learning that the salad’s dressing contained peanuts, the peanut allergy community spoke loudly, sharing their concerns with the fast food chain. In response, based on this customer feedback, Wendy’s management made the decision to reformulate the dressing to be peanut free.
Wendy’s has just introduced the new, peanut free version of the Light Spicy Asian Chili Vinaigrette dressing, which accompanies their Asian Cashew Chicken Salad. The peanut free dressing is now being served in Wendy’s restaurants nationwide, according to Bob Bertini, Wendy’s spokesperson.
“We modify our recipes from time to time, but this is the first, to my knowledge, related to an allergen,” Bertini explained. When asked what other menu changes have been made to accommodate customers with special dietary needs, Bertini responded, “It’s not a change, as we have done this for some time, but the tree nuts used in our salads (pecans and cashews) are provided in individual packets. The customer can decide whether to apply these ingredients as toppings to their salads.”
According to Bertini, Wendy’s is demonstrating its commitment to accommodating food-allergic guests in a variety of ways. For instance, all Wendy’s managers are required to be ServSafe certified, which includes education on the major food allergens and the signs of reaction. Wendy’s provides information on seven major allergens: eggs, milk, wheat, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, and fish. (The chain doesn’t serve any shellfish in their restaurants.) In addition, Wendy’s has a customer call center and two registered dietitians on staff, available to respond to consumers’ questions about ingredients and allergens.
I am pleased that Wendy’s modified this new menu item to make it peanut free based on our community input. And while tree nuts are still present, I appreciate that the company provides the pecans and cashews in a separate, sealed package. Individuals with food allergies must still keep their guard up at Wendy’s, particularly given the size of the chain and the amount of employee turnover in the fast food industry, but I appreciate Wendy’s effort to be sensitive to the peanut allergy community.
I do also feel the need to remind everyone – particularly those with dairy allergies – about our posts 2-1/2 years ago involving the buttered buns Wendy’s made a staple of most burgers. You can find the last post in that chain here: “Important New and Corrected Information About Wendy’s New Menu and Dairy Allergies.” I haven’t confirmed that Wendy’s still uses those buttered buns, but a look at their allergen table only shows the Basic Jr. Hamburger as not having dairy. Even there, however, dairy-allergic patrons need to be cautious that the buns aren’t toasted as that would be a cross contamination risk with the buttered buns that go into the same toaster.
The bottom line is that virtually all fast-food restaurants have elevated risks due, if nothing else, to their high employee turnover. That said, I still applaud this latest move by Wendy’s and hope this one simple effort will, in hindsight, be yet another small step toward larger industry-wide sensitivity down the road.
What do you think? Are you excited by this change or is it a ‘non-event’? Could this be the start of a trend? Does it bother you that Wendy’s is being responsive to those with peanut allergies, but not as much so to those with other food allergies? Or are you okay with that, assuming that eventually we’re all benefit if this is the start of a trend? Share your thoughts – positive, negative, or otherwise in the Reply box below. We want to hear what you have to say!
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