Food Allergens – what are they and why should we be worried?

An allergen is something that causes an allergic reaction in people. The reaction can be as simple as a tingling of the lips to hives to full anaphylaxis. The worse situation is when the trachea (wind pipe) closes and will not allow for the movement of air, this can result in death - it is known as anaphylaxis. It can take as little as three minutes for cells to start dying from lack of oxygen and so having a closed windpipe can result in death, if medical intervention is not quick enough.

Although the amount of people that can have this level of allergic reaction is very small, it is enough that all food businesses must have processes in place to either eliminate the food allergens or control them.

It is Chapter One of the Food Stanadrds Code in Australia and New Zealand (and similar law in other countries) that lists what foods are considered to be our food allergens. Each country has it's own list, based on the number of cases and the severity of them.

The following are the food allergens that our food businesses must eliminate or control;

  • Gluten - this is not a food, but a component of wheat, oats, barley and rye and any food they are in.
  • Dairy - not just cow's milk products
  • Eggs
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Seeds
  • Soy

It is important to note that even though pollen and royal jelly are not actually considered to be food allergens, they are recognised as causing allergic reactions that merit them being shown in the Code.

It is not the foods that are the issue but specific proteins they contain. Much work is being done to try and reduce or eliminate the proteins in these foods which actually cause the allergic reaction. However, until this has been achieved it remains to each of us to do what we can to ensure that no unintentional allrgens are ever found in our products.

I'll do another article this month about the many things that food businesses can, and should, be doing to either eliminate their food allergens or control them.

To get a complete explanation of food allergens and what and recognised control methods got to my eStore on annd pick up my eBook about the Top Ten Things we can do the control Food Allergens.

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