Do You Know Your Allergens?
If you serve food to residents in a care home, customers at a garden centre, cafe or restaurant, it is important to understand allergens and how to follow the regulations put in place to control all allergens. The people who are purchasing and consuming the foods you sell/provide need to know exactly what ingredients are in the meals. This goes without saying that all workers on the venues need to understand allergens, or know where the allergen documentation is – with easy access.
What is Food Allergens?
Food Allergens are very important to know about when you are serving food to customers or residents. Having a brilliant understanding of what food allergies there are, will help you avoid ruining your companies reputation, trouble with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and hefty fines.
From 13 December 2014, all food businesses will need to provide information about the allergenic ingredients used in food sold or provided by them. The EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation outlines the new requirements for businesses which are providing food sold prepacked and non-prepacked (loose) such as food sold in a restaurant or takeaway.
New rules were put in place to ensure all consumers are given comprehensive ingredient listing information on all menus – meaning they can pick up on what’s in the food, to avoid those if allergic.
People with food allergies have to be extremely careful about what they eat. Food labelling is therefore very important to those with food allergies as there can be potentially serious consequences from eating food that they are allergic to.
October 2011 Allergens:
A further regulation was published in October 2011 which builds on the allergen labelling rules. This is aimed at pre-packed foods and a new requirement for allergen information to be provided for foods sold non-packed or prepacked for direct sale. This three-year period allows businesses to get on top of their allergen information within their venues, making sure all the labelling designs in order to meet the provisions laid out in the legislation.
There Are 14 Major Allergens That Need to Be Known About:
1 Sulphur dioxide – This is sometimes found in meat products, vegetables, wine, beer and vegetables. Also very often found in dried fruits like raisins. People who suffer from asthma will have a higher chance of developing an allergy to sulphur dioxide.
2 Peanuts – As one of the most commonly heard about allergies, peanuts can be found in biscuits, cakes, curries, desserts, sauces, as well as in groundnut/peanut oil and peanut flour. These are a legume and grow underground.
3 Soya – Soya is a popular ingredient in oriental food. It can also be found in desserts, ice cream, meat products, sauces and vegetarian products. It is also a alternative to dairy products.
4 Sesame seeds – Commonly found in bread, breadsticks, houmous, sesame oil and sometimes used in salads.
5 Fish – As well as the obvious, fish can be found in some sauces, relishes, stock cubes, pastes and salad dressings.
6 Milk – Milk will be found in most dairy products, such as cheese, butter, cream and yoghurt. It is also commonly used to brush foods as a glaze when cooking. Powdered soups and sauces could also have milk making a appearance in it.
7 Lupin – Even though lupin is a flower, it is used in some types of bread products and pasta as the flour and seeds are edible.
8 Mustard – Mustard can be found in a lot of different foods. Breads, marinades, sauces, soups, meat products breads and salad dressings. This includes liquid mustard, mustard seeds and mustard powder.
9 Molluscs – Mussels, land snails, squid and whelks. These are also sometimes found in oyster sauces and fish stews.
10 Nuts – These are the ones which grow on trees: cashew nuts, almonds and hazelnuts. You can find nuts in breads, biscuits, crackers, desserts, nut powders (often used in Asian curries), stir-fried dishes, ice cream, marzipan (almond paste), nut oils and sauces.
11 Eggs – Eggs are often found in cakes, some meat products, mayonnaise, mousses, pasta, quiche, sauces and pastries or foods brushed or glazed with egg.
12 Cereals with Gluten – Wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan wheat/Kamut), rye, barley and oats is often found in foods containing flour, such as some types of baking powder, batter, breadcrumbs, bread, cakes, couscous, meat products, pasta, pastry, sauces, soups and fried foods which are dusted with flour.
13 Celery – This includes celery stalks, leaves, seeds and the root called celeriac. You can find celery in celery salt, salads, some meat products, soups and stock cubes.
14 Crustaceans – Crabs, lobster, prawns and scampi are crustaceans. Shrimp paste, often used in Thai and south-east Asian curries or salads, is an ingredient to look out for.
What You Need to Do to Keep This in Order:
- Train your staff on food allergens, making sure they have a full understanding.
- If customer/resident asks what’s in the food, know where the information is.
- Make sure all food allergens are known in the kitchens, with the chefs understanding how these should be stored to avoid contamination (labelling correctly where needed).
- Relax and if you need more advice and information, click here for the Food Standards Agency website.