Knowing your allergens is essential in the food industry. Simple information about what foods typically cause allergic reactions, and the basics of what to do when someone is having a reaction can quite possibly save a life (and your business!) The EU Food Information for Consumer Regulations, enacted in December 2014, requires businesses to inform customers about allergenic ingredients used in food your business prepares and sells. As always, awareness is the best practice, and food education and food safety online is a great place to start learning.
In most instances, people who have food intolerances are already aware of them, and know to avoid certain foods. Sometimes food allergies can develop later in life, but these are usually not fatal and cause, at the worst, sever discomfort, rashes, or swelling. You can find loads of resources about food education online, which detail the most common allergenic foods that must be declared according to the EU Food Information regulations. These include the following: cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts and most other nuts, soybeans, milk, celery, mustard, sesame, sulphur dioxide or sulphites, lupin, and molluscs, such as clams, scallops and squid. Be sure these are all listed either on your products’ packaging, or menu.
Food safety is of utmost importance, but if in the unhappy event an allergic reaction does occur, the next step is to recognise the symptoms and react appropriately. The most common symptoms include swelling of the lips and face, coughing and wheezing, nausea and vomiting, skin rash, and itchy red eyes. In severe cases, even the slightest amount of an allergen can cause a potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. If any of these symptoms occur, the first thing to do is to call 999 for an ambulance right away and then help the person with an epinephrine (epi-pen) pen if they need it. Send someone to wait for the ambulance outside, and try to keep the person calm.
Another important thing to be aware of is cross contamination. Even though a dish may not contain peanuts, for example, cooking in a kitchen where peanuts, peanut butter, or peanut oil is used could have dire consequences for someone with a peanut allergy. You can find advise about food safety online, which will tell you a number of ways to avoid cross contamination. Advise includes keeping records of ingredients used in preparing food so the information is readily available; be detailed about dish descriptions on your menus; if preparing a dish without a certain ingredient, make sure all surfaces and cooking equipment have been properly cleaned.
Food safety awareness is an important part of any food industry job. Keep your staff informed of food allergens, the dangers of cross contamination, and how to recognize and react to an allergic reaction is easy with the number of online food safety courses available today. With knowledge gained from food education online and implemented in your food safety practices, allergic reactions can be avoided. Click here to get access to our allergen food education online module.