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Allergenic Food Contamination

3 November 2023

Allergenic food contamination can produce serious life threatening reactions in some people. Many people are allergic to certain foods, so you must always be aware of all the ingredients contained in the food served by your kitchen. For example, many pre-prepared foodstuffs such as ice cream contain eggs, and other foods contain traces of nuts. Be very careful when garnishing food, because even if a pre-prepared food type is allergen free, if it is garnished with chopped nuts it can become fatal to certain people.


Allergen Awareness Training

All members of staff must be trained in Allergen Awareness and observe the house rules. They should be able to recognise the symptoms of an allergic reaction. For a convenient fully online Managing Food Allergens course, please see eLearn Safety course on Managing Food Allergens. It is very important to make sure that food suppliers provide complete ingredient information. This is especially important if any changes to food ingredients are made. The best way to ensure your suppliers are compliant is having a robust and up-to-date Food Safety Management Systems in place. Some useful information can be found in eLearn Safety blog entry from 5th May 2023 titled Food Safety Management System (FSMS).


Consequences of Allergenic Food Contamination

Another important task of all food handlers is to listen carefully to customers. If an allergy sufferer asks for information about the ingredients of a certain food, it is essential that all involved in the food business have allergenic food contamination awareness so they can give an accurate response to their customers.

Naturally, there are some food handling establishments whose unique selling point is food that are classified as allergenic. Examples of such establishments are restaurants that serve sea food or dishes containing nuts. The most important word here is awareness – all staff must be aware of food ingredients in each dish. Likewise, customers must be aware that the seafood restaurant will most likely serve fish as a main offering.

Businesses cannot claim they don’t know what allergens are in the food they are serving or use ‘blanket-cover all’ expressions ‘food may contain allergens’ for all food they serve.


Anaphylactic Shock Symptoms

Allergic food contamination is a serious issue as allergies can cause an anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock is life-threatening.

The symptoms include:

  • Reddening of the skin, swelling of the lips and eyelids.
  • Swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing and/or speaking.
  • Feeling faint due to a serious drop in blood pressure.
  • Nausea.
  • Collapse and unconsciousness.

If someone suffers these symptoms, immediate medical attention must be provided. In addition, calling an ambulance is a must.


Allergenic Food Contamination – Food Allergens

There are 14 allergens that must be declared by law. These are:

  1. Cereals containing gluten – wheat (such as spelt and khorasan wheat), rye, barley, oats. Note: The cereal name, e.g., ‘wheat’, must be declared and highlighted, not ‘gluten’.
  2. Crustaceans, e.g., crabs, prawns, lobsters.
  3. Eggs.
  4. Fish.
  5. Peanuts.
  6. Soybeans.
  7. Milk.
  8. Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macademia/Queensland nut). Note: The name of the nut, e.g., ‘almond’, must be declared and highlighted, not ‘nuts’.
  9. Celery.
  10. Mustard.
  11. Sesame seeds.
  12. Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (at concentrations of more than 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/L in terms of total sulphur dioxide) – used as a preservative.
  13. Lupin.
  14. Molluscs e.g., mussels, oysters, squid, snails.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland published useful information in relation to Food Allergens on their web page titled Food Allergens – Advice for Consumers.


Online Food Safety Training

Please remember – it is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity!

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email