8 Food Allergens You Need to Know

Trust20 Contributors

October 12, 2021

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Trust20 recently outlined the differences between a food allergy, intolerance, and preference – but what kinds of food allergies are out there? Food Allergy Research & Education notes that food allergies are a life-threatening medical condition affecting 32 million Americans. In fact, one in every 13 children has a food allergy. 

A food allergy occurs when someone’s immune system overreacts to a protein or enzyme in a food. These immune responses range from mild to severe and some symptoms can even be mistaken for symptoms of other medical conditions. It is important for everyone who works in foodservice to understand the severity of food allergies and know what to look out for when someone at their table or in their establishment says they are allergic to a particular food.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR
It is required by law that food packaging identify allergens in a product and whether or not the product was prepared in a facility where there is risk for cross-contact with allergens. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) identifies eight foods as major food allergens. They include:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybean

In April 2021, the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act was signed and declared sesame the 9th major food allergen recognized in the country (labeling sesame as an allergen will not be required until 2023).

PREVENTING ALLERGIC REACTIONS IN FOODSERVICE ENVIRONMENTS
The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to practice safe food handling procedures. There are eight key ways to prevent allergic reactions in a foodservice environment:

  • Establish food allergen policies and share them with your guests
  • Ask guests if they have food allergies
  • Inform the entire staff after an allergen-free order has been placed
  • Establish food allergen policies and share them with your guests
  • Store allergenic ingredients separately from other stock
  • Check ingredient labels for allergens
  • Wash hands and change gloves before and after handling allergens
  • Use separate utensils and food contact surfaces for handling allergens
  • Sanitize all utensils and surfaces that touch allergens

THE BOTTOM LINE
Food allergies are incredibly common and you never know how severe someone’s allergic reaction may be just by looking at them. Taking the appropriate steps to prevent cross-contact of foods will protect you, your guests, as well as the establishment serving them. It is also vital you ensure you and your team all know the proper procedures and protocols in case someone has an allergic reaction in your restaurant. Need a refresher on food handler safety for you or your team? Check out Trust20’s Food Handler Certificate course. Safe food handling practices are just the beginning - stay tuned for Trust20’s upcoming allergen safety training!

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