Information about food allergy intolerance

Food allergy is an immune response to a food or a substance, normally a protein or glyco-protein, found in a food naturally or by contamination, or produced by processing, cooking or digestion.

In extreme cases, anaphylactic shock can happen. The whole body is affected often within minutes of exposure to the allergen but sometimes after hours. Anaphylactic shock is usually caused by food, insect stings such as bees, latex and drugs eg aspirin. The symptoms range from rash, swelling of the mouth/throat, difficulty in breathing, drop in blood pressure, collapse, unconsciousness and death.

There are considered to be eight major serious food allergens which include milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, shellfish, fish, soy and tree nuts (eg almond, brazil, cashew, hazelnut) which cause 90% of all food allergic reactions. The peanut is one of the chief foods to cause severe anaphylactic reactions or true allergic reaction.

Food allergies are recognised as a hazard in FSA Safer Food Better Business and CookSafe food safety assurance system.

As a caterer, you need to consider the following:

  • Ingredient labelling
  • training
  • separate areas and equipment
  • adequate cleaning and disinfection
  • hand washing
  • menus
  • how information is received from serving/waiting staff and
  • how to prevent cross contamination

If you cannot guarantee that the food is free of food allergens, you should never guess as you can be prosecuted or cause an allergic reaction to a customer.

Further information

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