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Why Focus on Allergens Is More Important than Ever

Michelle Roebuck

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Michelle Roebuck | February 9, 2017 | 0

Allergens

A skin rash minutes after drinking milk? Vomiting after dining on shellfish? Breathing difficulties after snacking on peanuts? Get to the hospital quick! You could be having a food-allergy attack.

Food allergies are generally mild but in rare instances can be very serious and even fatal, always treat with caution.  Researchers estimate about 15 million people suffer allergic reactions to food every year in the United States, with symptoms ranging from a simple rash to anaphylaxis (a rare reaction that significantly impairs breathing).  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimates that each year food allergies send about 500,000 people to seek medical care with 30,000 of them suffering from anaphylaxis.

Allergens are substances that trigger the immune system to overreact in certain vulnerable individuals. Food allergens are simply foods or food ingredients that cause an allergic reaction. People react to food allergens differently. Some have severe reactions; others, only mild ones or none at all.

In the U.S., eight foods cause 90 percent of all food-allergy cases. From highest incidence to lowest, they are:

  1. Cow’s milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Peanuts
  4. Tree nuts (almond, walnut, pecan, or cashew)
  5. Fish
  6. Shellfish
  7. Soy
  8. Wheat

All eight are popular food items in restaurants and other food-service establishments—a clear case for allergen training for food handlers.

In recent years, health authorities have noted a sustained upswing in food-allergy cases.  This increase is significant enough to force local authorities across the country to require food-service establishments to post on their premises a notice containing the following:

  1. What are the top eight food allergens
  2. How the food-service staff should handle a diner having an allergic reaction
  3. How to prevent allergens from contaminating food items.

Knowledge of food allergens and how to handle food-allergy emergencies could mean life or death. It could also mean good business practices for your customers or an unaffordable lawsuit against your food-service business.

For any commercial kitchen, putting a good food safety program in place goes hand in hand with protection against contamination from food allergens. To do that requires proper training for the kitchen personnel and the wait-staff.  Need food handler or food manager training for your crew? Check out the food training options at learn2serve.com

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