Allergens are substances that can cause the body's immune system to respond with noticeable symptoms such as swelling of the throat and mouth, rashes, weakness and abdominal pain. In severe cases, anaphylactic shock can occur and may be fatal.
It is necessary to ensure that any foods prepared and offered are considered for allergens. This may involve labelling foodstuffs or communicating with your customers about which allergens might be present. It is acceptable to declare that you cannot confirm that any foodstuffs sold or provided are free from allergens. However, it is best practice to be as accommodating as possible.
The main food allergens to be aware of include celery, gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs, mustard, nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, soya, and sulphur dioxide.
All food handlers must be aware of the procedures to follow should anyone suffer an anaphylactic shock:
- Do not move the individual
- Call an ambulance immediately
- Ask if they have a preloaded adrenaline injection kit
- Try to keep the individual calm until assistance arrives.
It is important to communicate clearly with customers. If they advise that they have a food allergen, it is necessary to be honest and confirm if any are present. If you do not know, tell your customers this – do not guess. If possible, label any menus with details of any allergens present. When preparing food, use separate areas and equipment when handling ingredients which may cause an allergic response. Effective hand washing and thorough cleaning practices are also important.