Food Allergens

Food allergies occur in about 1 in 10 infants, 1 in 20 children and 1 in 50 adults. A food allergy is an immune response to a food protein that a person’s body perceives as harmful.

Exposure, further contact or consumption can lead to an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction can occur within minutes or hours of ingestion or exposure. A reaction can involve mild to moderate symptoms such as hives, swelling, tingling in the mouth, vomiting or abdominal pain. Some food allergies can be severe, and some allergic reactions can be life-threatening or fatal - known as anaphylaxis.

There are at least 170 foods that can trigger an allergic reaction. The most common are:

  • Cereals containing gluten and their products – like wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt, and their hybrid strains
  • Crustacea and their products
  • Egg and egg products
  • Fish and fish products
  • Milk and milk products
  • Peanuts and peanut products
  • Tree nuts and tree nut products (does not include coconut)
  • Sesame seeds and sesame seed products
  • Soybean and soybean products
  • Added sulphites in concentrations of 10 mg/kg or more
  • Lupin

What are your responsibilities as a food business?

While the consumer is responsible for their own health, a food business is legally required to comply with the Food Standards Code, which specifies food allergy requirements. Everyone in the business needs to be aware of the risks food allergies pose, and be clear on how to identify and manage them and become allergy aware. It is important to:

  • Meet your legal obligation to serve food that is safe and suitable for human consumption
  • Develop a process for preparing foods for customers with allergies and ensure it is followed
  • Train staff so they understand their obligation to declare certain allergens if a customer asks
  • Ask suppliers about their allergen management policy and for a Product Information Form (PIF)
  • Consider providing allergen information on your menu to help customers easily determine what foods they should avoid
  • Prevent cross-contamination in preparation of foods
  • Comply with the law by declaring ingredients in food when asked by a customer

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