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Food Allergies: What Every Food Business Should Know  

11/12/2023by admin0Read: 7 minutes

As food allergies become increasingly prevalent, safeguarding consumers from potential allergens has become a focal point for the food industry. Recognising the symptoms and types of food allergies is not only vital for proper management but is also an essential step in securing the health and well-being of individuals who rely on food businesses for their meals. This introduction paves the way for a detailed exploration into how food businesses can proactively address the challenges posed by food allergies, ensuring a safe and worry-free dining experience for their consumers.

Food Allergies

An element in food known as an allergen—often harmless—causes an immune system reaction that triggers a food allergy. The immunological response can be minor to severe.  It is different from food intolerance.

Symptoms of Food Allergies

Food allergies can have varied symptoms.  They are divided based on whether the allergy is mild or severe as follows:

1) Mild Allergy

The most common ones for a mild allergy include:

  • Hives or skin rashes that look like a red circular weal.
  • swelling of the face, throat, lips, and around the mouth.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or stomach cramps.
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort.
  • Tightness in the chest

2) Severe Allergy

Symptoms of severe allergy might include:

  • wheeze or shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing, asthma.
  • Difficulty in talking more than a few words or developing a hoarse voice.
  • Cough.
  • swelling or tightness of the throat.
  • Severe headache and collapsing down.
  • light-headedness or dizziness or fainting.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Swelling of the tongue.
  • Turning pale and floppy (among young children).

Causes of Food Allergies

Some foods are more likely to cause allergies than others. These include:

  • Dairy – When compared to a dairy allergy, lactose intolerance is different. Dairy products including milk may cause breathing issues, skin rashes, or stomach pains in people with a dairy allergy.
  • Eggs – Egg allergies can cause anything from minor itching or hives to more serious symptoms like anaphylaxis and difficulty breathing.
  • Peanuts – Numerous people with peanut allergies develop severe responses, including potentially fatal anaphylaxis.
  • Tree Nuts – Mild to severe allergic responses can be caused by almonds, walnuts, and other tree nuts like Pine nuts, Pecans and Brazil nuts.
  • Soy – Soy allergies can cause symptoms like nasal congestion, hives, or digestive problems.
  • Grains that contain gluten (Wheat, Barley, Rye and Oats)
  • Fish – Fish consumption can result in allergic responses that range in severity from minor symptoms to anaphylaxis. Some people may only have an allergy to certain kinds of fish.
  • Shellfish – Serious allergic responses can occur while eating shellfish such as shrimp and lobster. Even a small quantity might cause signs like oedema, breathing problems, or a dip in blood pressure.

Allergic Reactions and Anaphylaxis

When the immune system overreacts to a particular meal, allergic responses happen. Some people may only have moderate symptoms while others may experience more severe repercussions. The degree of these reactions might vary.

Anaphylaxis is one of the most serious allergic responses. Anaphylaxis is a potentially fatal disorder that needs to be treated right away. It may result in a sudden drop in blood pressure, respiratory problems, and unconsciousness.

Anaphylaxis symptoms must be recognised to take prompt action. Hives or rash, swelling of the cheeks, lips, or neck, pressure in the chest, digestive problems, and light-headedness or fainting are a few examples of these symptoms. Seek immediate emergency medical attention if you suspect anaphylaxis.

Epinephrine, sometimes known as an EpiPen, is frequently administered as a form of treatment for anaphylaxis. Blood pressure is stabilised, and symptoms are reversed with epinephrine’s assistance. People who have been diagnosed with severe food allergies must always carry their prescription epinephrine auto-injector.

Keep in mind that anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires quick care. If you or someone you know develops these severe allergic reactions, always call emergency assistance.

Tips for Avoiding Allergenic Foods and Cross-contamination Risks:
  • To detect and steer clear of allergic components, read food labels carefully.
  • Avoid dining at restaurants that can’t provide allergen-free food.
  • Let your loved ones and coworkers know about your sensitivities to certain foods.
  • Bring your own snacks and meals to social events.
  • To avoid cross-contamination, carefully clean all kitchen surfaces and equipment.

How can Food Businesses Safeguard Consumers from Food Allergies 

Food organisations play a pivotal role in securing customer health and trust, which in turn reflects in their brand reputation and value.

Prioritising the well-being of consumers through comprehensive allergen management practices not only ensures a safe environment but also reflects the commitment of food businesses to both employee and customer health.

Safeguarding consumers from food allergies is of utmost importance for food businesses, and adherence to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) regulations is a key aspect of achieving this goal. Here are some guidelines to help food businesses in Australia safeguard consumers from food allergies while complying with FSANZ:

1) Allergen Identification and Labeling:

  • Clearly label all ingredients, especially the common allergens identified by FSANZ (e.g., peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish).
  • Ensure that allergen information is easily visible and legible on product packaging.

2) Accurate Product Descriptions:

  • Provide accurate and detailed descriptions of menu items, specifying potential allergens.
  • Clearly communicate the presence of allergens in dishes, even if they are part of a recipe.

3) Staff Training:

  • Train all staff members in allergy awareness and the importance of preventing cross-contact.
  • Equip staff with knowledge of how to respond to customer inquiries about allergens.

4) Separation of Allergenic Ingredients:

  • Implement strict separation protocols to prevent cross-contact between allergenic and non-allergenic ingredients during storage, preparation, and cooking.
  • Use separate utensils, cutting boards, and equipment for allergenic and non-allergenic foods.

5) Menu Transparency:

  • Clearly communicate allergen information on menus, including any potential cross-contact risks.
  • Consider using symbols or a separate allergen information chart to enhance clarity.

6) Ingredient Verification:

  • Regularly verify the ingredients supplied by your vendors to ensure accuracy in allergen information.
  • Maintain up-to-date records of ingredient specifications and allergen content.

7) Supplier Communication:

  • Establish clear communication channels with suppliers to stay informed about any changes in ingredient formulations or allergen content.
  • Request allergen information from suppliers and verify its accuracy.

8) Online and Offline Communication:

  • Utilize online platforms, such as websites and mobile apps, to provide detailed allergen information.
  • Train staff to verbally communicate allergen information accurately to customers when requested.

9) Emergency Response Planning:

  • Develop and implement a comprehensive emergency response plan in case of accidental allergen exposure.
  • Train staff on proper procedures to follow in case of an allergic reaction, including first aid and contacting emergency services.

10) Regular Audits and Inspections:

  • Conduct regular internal audits of food preparation areas to ensure compliance with allergen management protocols.
  • Consider hiring third-party auditors to perform comprehensive allergen-related inspections.

11) Customer Communication:

  • Encourage customers to communicate their allergies to staff when ordering.
  • Display clear signage encouraging customers with allergies to inform staff about their dietary needs.

12) Continuous Improvement:

  • Establish a continuous improvement process to regularly review and enhance allergen management protocols.
  • Actively seek feedback from customers and staff to identify areas for improvement.

Guidance on Safe Food Handling Practices for Organisations

Maintaining high standards of food safety is paramount in the food industry to prevent contamination and safeguard consumers, particularly those with allergies.

Here are some best practices for employees working in a food business:

1) Personal Hygiene:

  • Employees should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling any food.
  • Encourage the use of hand sanitisers when handwashing facilities are not readily available.
  • Hair should be tied back, and appropriate headgear or nets should be worn to prevent hair from falling into food.

2) Protective Clothing:

  • Provide and mandate the use of clean and appropriate protective clothing, such as aprons and gloves, to prevent contamination.

3) Training and Education:

  • Ensure that all staff members are adequately trained in food safety practices, including recognizing allergens and preventing cross-contamination.
  • Regularly update employees on new safety protocols and industry best practices.

4) Separation of Tasks:

  • Clearly define tasks to avoid cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods.
  • Use separate cutting boards, utensils, and equipment for different types of foods, especially when handling allergens.

5) Allergen Awareness:

  • Clearly label all ingredients, including potential allergens, and educate staff about the importance of avoiding cross-contact.
  • Create a comprehensive list of allergens present in each menu item.

6) Storage Practices:

  • Store raw and cooked foods separately in refrigerators to prevent the transfer of harmful bacteria.
  • Implement a strict stock rotation system to use older products first.

7) Cleaning and Sanitising:

  • Establish regular cleaning schedules for all food preparation and storage areas.
  • Use appropriate sanitisers to clean surfaces and equipment regularly.
  • Ensure that cleaning cloths are changed frequently.

8) Temperature Control:

  • Monitor and control food temperatures to prevent bacterial growth. This includes proper refrigeration and cooking temperatures.
  • Regularly check and calibrate equipment like thermometers.

9) Supplier Relationships:

  • Establish strong relationships with reputable suppliers to ensure the quality and safety of ingredients.
  • Regularly audit suppliers to verify their adherence to food safety standards.

10) Communication:

  • Foster a culture of open communication among staff members to quickly address any concerns related to food safety.
  • Encourage reporting of any potential contamination risks.

11) Emergency Response:

  • Develop and rehearse an emergency response plan in case of accidental contamination or allergen exposure.
  • Have clear procedures for handling and communicating during a food safety incident.

12) Regular Inspections:

  • Conduct regular inspections of the premises to identify and rectify potential sources of contamination.
  • Involve local health authorities or hire third-party auditors for comprehensive inspections.

13) Continuous Improvement:

  • Establish a continuous improvement process to regularly review and enhance food safety protocols.
  • Encourage employees to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Role of Anitech’s Consultants in Enhancing Employee Allergen Protection for Australian Food Businesses

Anitech’s experienced food safety consultants can help food businesses protect customers from food allergies.

Our exclusive services include:

1) Tailored Training Solutions: 

Anitech’s consultants offer tailored allergen awareness training to employees, ensuring they understand allergen risks, safe handling practices, and emergency procedures.

2) Strategic Implementation: 

Our food safety consultants can assist in developing clear protocols for allergen management, cross-contamination prevention, and safe food preparation, ensuring consistency across all staff.

3) Menu and Recipe Analysis: 

Our experts also shall review menus and recipes to identify potential allergen risks and recommend adjustments to reduce cross-contact possibilities.

4) Supplier Collaboration: 

They can aid in establishing effective communication with suppliers to ensure accurate allergen labelling and ingredient information.

5) Allergen-Free Zones: 

Our consultants help create allergen-free zones in kitchens, outlining processes to prevent cross-contact and contamination risks.

6) Effective Communication: 

Our experts can help establish communication channels between kitchen staff, servers, and management to ensure allergy-related requests are accurately transmitted.

7) Emergency Preparedness: 

Anitech’s consultants train staff on recognizing allergic reactions and guide businesses in implementing clear procedures for handling emergencies.

8) Policy Development: 

Our expert consultants can assist in creating comprehensive allergen management policies, including staff health disclosure and allergen-free preparation guidelines.

9) Continuous Improvement: 

Regular audits by our food safety consultants can help in assessing the effectiveness of allergen protection measures, identifying areas for enhancement, and ensuring ongoing compliance.

10) Regulatory Compliance: 

Our consultants are well-versed with the evolving allergen regulations, guiding businesses to maintain compliance and avoid legal pitfalls.

Thus, collaborating with our consultants empowers Australian food businesses to create a safe environment for their employees, fostering a culture of awareness, prevention, and meticulous allergen management.

To commence this association, call us today at 1300 802 163 or e-mail – sales@anitechgroup.com.

For more information, stay tuned to our website.

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