Foodservice Equipment Reports

ADA Doesn't Require Restaurants To Serve Allergen-Free Foods

Accommodation without major alteration to a foodservice operation appears to be the stance taken by the U.S. Department of Justice with regard to how the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to food-allergic customers. The department has just published a Q&A reaffirming that the ADA does not require all restaurants to provide gluten-free or allergen-free foods.

The Q&A indicates the ADA might require restaurants to take what it calls “reasonable steps” to accommodate people with celiac disease and other food allergies, as long as the accommodation doesn't result in a “fundamental alteration” of the restaurant’s operation.

For example, the ADA may require operators to answer questions about menu ingredients and omit or substitute certain ingredients upon request if the restaurant normally does this for other guests. But a restaurant would not be required to “alter its menu or provide different foods to meet particular dietary needs.”

The agency's clarification was prompted by the settlement of an ADA lawsuit filed by food-allergic students at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. The school agreed to provide gluten- and allergen-free food options as part of its mandatory meal plan and take other steps to accommodate students with celiac disease and other food allergies.