A food allergy is a medical condition in which a person has an allergic reaction after eating a certain food. The allergic reaction occurs when the immune system attacks proteins in normally harmless foods. The proteins that trigger the reaction are called allergens.
Food Allergy Research and Education estimates that 32 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.6 million children under the age 18. There is no cure for food allergies, and strictly avoiding allergens is the only way to prevent a reaction.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from mildly unpleasant responses, such as developing hives and experiencing digestive discomfort, to severe life-threatening responses such as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that causes the immune system to release a flood of chemicals that can cause a person to go into shock. Blood pressure drops suddenly and airways narrow, blocking breathing. Signs and symptoms include a rapid, weak pulse; a skin rash; and nausea and vomiting. Anaphylaxis requires an epinephrine injection and a follow-up trip to an emergency room. If the person does not have epinephrine, they need to go to an emergency room immediately. Each year in the U.S., 200,000 people require emergency medical care for allergic reactions to food (Source: FARE "Facts and Statistics").
A food intolerance is different from a food allergy, although a food intolerance may cause some of the same symptoms as a food allergy does, including nausea, vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea. A person with a food intolerance may be able to eat small amounts of problem foods without a reaction. A person with a true food allergy, however, will have an allergic reaction even if they ingest a tiny amount of an allergen.
Through education and training, foodservice professionals can provide a safe and trusted dining experience for their customers, enhancing the guest experience by understanding and appreciating their specific needs.
Foodservice operators should develop their own specific food allergy prevention protocols to minimize food allergy risks for their guests. The protocol should be specific to the restaurant’s setup and menus, addressing both kitchen and front-of-the-house operations.
Shellfish is one of the more common food allergies, and reactions tend to be severe. Shellfish include all marine animals with shells, such as shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops as well as octopus and squid. Fish and shellfish are not the same, and someone who is allergic to one does not always mean they are allergic to the other.
For more information, visit: https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/common-allergens/shellfish
Finned fish is one of the most common food allergies, and also causes severe reactions. This category encompasses all species of finned fish, including anchovies, bass, catfish, cod, flounder, grouper, haddock, hake, halibut, herring, mahi mahi, pollock, sole, salmon, snapper, swordfish, tilapia, trout, and tuna. Finned fish and shellfish are not related, and being allergic to one does not always mean that both must be avoided.
For more information, visit: https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/common-allergens/fish
Peanuts can cause a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, and even very small amounts of peanuts can cause one. Peanuts are not the same as tree nuts (such as almonds and pistachios), and being allergic to peanuts does not mean a person is allergic to tree nuts. Peanuts grow underground and are part of the legume family.
For more information, visit: https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/common-allergens/peanut
Tree nuts include walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, chestnuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, pecans, and pine nuts (pignolia). Tree nuts are not the same as peanuts, which are legumes. They are also not the same as seeds, such as sesame seeds, pepitas, or sunflower seeds.
For more information, visit: https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/common-allergens/tree-nut
Sensitivity to dairy products varies from person to person, and reactions can range from mild, such as hives, to severe, such as anaphylaxis. Allergies to cow’s milk is most common in infants and young children. Dairy products include butter, buttermilk, cheese, cottage cheese, cream, custard, ghee, half-and-half, milk pudding, sour cream, and yogurt.
For more information, visit: https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/common-allergens/milk
Wheat is the most common grain product in the United States, and a wheat allergy reaction can range from mild to severe. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the ingestion of gluten, the protein found in wheat, leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect one in 100 people worldwide. Wheat can be found in breadcrumbs, bulgur, couscous, farro, wheat flour, pasta, soy sauce, baked goods, batter-fried and breaded foods, beer, and breakfast cereals. Wheat-free grain sources that customers allergic to wheat can enjoy are amaranth, barley, corn, oats, quinoa, rice, and rye.
For more information, visit: https://celiac.org/ and https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/common-allergens/wheat
Allergic reactions to soy are typically mild, but all reactions can be unpredictable. Soybean allergy is one of the more common food allergies, especially in children. Soybeans are widely used in manufactured food products, so identifying soy ingredients on food labels is critical. Soy is found in soy oil, edamame, soy sauce and tamari, miso, tempeh, tofu, and many vegetarian meat substitutes.
For more information, visit: https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/common-allergens/soy
Egg allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children, second only to dairy allergies. The whites of an egg contain the proteins that cause allergic reactions. Symptoms of an egg allergy reaction can range from mild to severe. Eggs can be found in eggs and egg substitutes (dried, powdered, solids, whites, or yolks), eggnog, mayonnaise, meringue, baked goods, ice cream, marshmallows, and pasta.
For more information, visit: https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/common-allergens/egg
Because every foodservice operation is different, it’s important that food operators develop their own food allergy awareness training and incident prevention plans. Training with front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house staff should include general food allergy awareness and menu-specific recommendations for avoiding food allergy incidents in your operation. It is the responsibility of every foodservice operator to prevent food allergy incidents from occurring in their operations. It’s also important that every restaurant employee understands the universal recommendations for preventing food allergies.
Please note: the following information is provided for general understanding of food allergies and not intended to be a comprehensive food allergy prevention plan.
The information contained in this lesson is meant to increase your general awareness of food allergies and how you can better serve guests who have them. This video lesson is for information purposes only. It is not intended to be an all-inclusive education on food allergies nor to establish an official protocol for handling food allergies in your foodservice establishment.
For more information about food allergies, go to https://www.foodallergy.org
Downloadable Handout: FARE’s How to Avoid Cross-Contact
Source: Food Allergy Research and Education, https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/avoiding-cross-contact
Program Presented by