Food Allergies: Everything You Need To Know (2021)

Everything you need to know about food allergies

Understanding Food Allergies

the 8 big food allergies
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Understandably, even customers with mild food allergies are wary of eating out. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that the number of people with food allergies has continued to rise over the past decade. In addition, according to ServSafe , half of the fatal episodes of allergic reactions to food occur outside the home. However, currently there is no legislation that establishes that restaurants must accommodate customers with food allergies.

While safely serving customers with food allergies may seem complicated and risky, there are several ways to gain their trust. Start by specifically understanding what your allergen is and deciding if your restaurant you can prepare your food safely. It is also essential to ensure proper communication between customer service personnel and service personnel regarding a customer's particular allergy. Finally, you must know its ingredients and know how to read its labels to detect each and every one of the known allergens.

Cross Contact: What It Is And How To Avoid It

Cross contact It is defined as the transfer of an allergen from a food that contains it to a food that does not contain it. When different foods come into contact with each other, their proteins get mixed up. At that time, each food contains traces of the other food that are generally too small to be seen with the naked eye.

Important Note:
Unlike cross contamination, cooking does not eliminate or reduce the likelihood that a person with a food allergy will have a reaction to contaminated food.

How to avoid cross contact

There are several easy ways to avoid cross contact in your food service establishment.

Practice proper sanitation

Make sure your staff properly wash, rinse, and sanitize cookware and equipment after handling a food allergen. Soap and water are a must, as simply cleaning food debris from surfaces does not completely remove the allergen. Additionally, cooks and prep cooks should wash their hands and change gloves before coming into contact with known allergens.

Use separate equipment

Your employees must also use separate equipment to prepare meals for customers with food allergies. This includes fryers, grills, flat surfaces, blenders, and other machines, all of which can become contaminated with leftover allergens if not cleaned properly. This is especially important between shifts, as some breakfast foods cooked with particular equipment may contain allergens that lunch foods cooked with that same equipment do not.

Create a service plan

Once an allergen-sensitive customer's food is ready to serve, it is important to have a service plan in place. Consider using a different colored bowl or plate to designate your food, and you can also use a colored ticket or food pick to indicate special handling.

Most importantly, make sure your servers deliver allergen-sensitive meals separately. Employees will generally bring multiple dishes to the table at the same time in close proximity to each other, but this delivery method cannot be used when serving guests with food allergies.

Cross contamination: what is it and how to avoid it

how to avoid cross contamination with food allergies

Cross contamination It is the root cause of most foodborne illnesses and occurs when bacteria and other microorganisms contaminate food during storage and preparation. Unlike cross-contact, in most cases, proper cooking of contaminated food will reduce or eliminate the chances of contracting foodborne illness.

While different from cross contact, cross contamination can still contribute to the potential for allergic reactions in your restaurant. Here are some of the most important steps you can take to limit the chances of cross contamination:

  • Store raw meat and seafood on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator in a sealed container or bag to make sure juices don't drip onto other foods.
  • Keep washed products in clean, color-coded storage containers, rather than putting them back in their original packaging.
  • Use color-coded kitchen equipment when preparing food. Equipping your kitchen with HACCP color-coded knives and other utensils can help you avoid cross contamination and ensure proper food handling. Designate green knives for use with fresh produce, white is for dairy products, yellow utensils are for raw poultry, red for raw meat, blue is for raw fish, and brown knives and utensils are for use only with cooked meat.

Being aware of cross contamination and knowing how to avoid it can help you keep all of your customers safe and healthy.

The 8 most common allergens

food allergies


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While there are over 160 known sources of food allergens, a small group of allergens known as the "Big Eight" are responsible for a whopping 90% of all food allergic reactions. Consumption of these foods by affected people is also more likely to cause serious or life-threatening allergic reactions.


Cow's milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies in babies and young children. People allergic to cow's milk should also avoid milk from other pets.

  • Common sources : butter, cheese, pudding, sour cream.
  • Unexpected sources : caramel, chocolate, cold cuts, steaks.


Many people are also allergic to eggs, including young children. The whites of an egg contain the proteins that cause allergic reactions, but it is essential that sensitive people avoid eggs entirely, as it is impossible to completely separate the whites and yolks.

  • Common sources : baked goods, macaroni, marshmallows, mayonnaise.
  • Unexpected sources : foam coverage in beverages, egg wash for baked goods.


Peanuts are different from tree nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, and cashews. Instead, they grow underground and belong to the same family as beans, peas, lentils, and soybeans. Peanuts and tree nuts often come into contact with each other during processes, manufacturing and service.

  • Common sources : baked goods, candy, peanut butter, mixed nuts.
  • Unexpected sources : chili, egg rolls, pancakes, meat substitutes.

Tree nuts

Tree nuts include cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and almonds. Most people who are allergic to one type of tree nut are also allergic to other types. Nuts and peanuts often come into contact with each other during the manufacturing and serving processes.

  • Common sources : nut butter, pesto, artificial nuts, coconut.
  • Unexpected sources : cereals, energy bars, flavored coffee, Italian sausage.


More than 50% of people allergic to one type of fish are also allergic to other types of fish. Affected people should avoid restaurants seafood and fish markets, as there is a high risk of cross-contact in these locations.

  • Common sources : all kinds of fish.
  • Unexpected sources : barbecue sauce, Caesar dressing, meatloaf, Worcestershire sauce.


Shellfish are divided into two groups: crustaceans (shrimp, crabs, lobsters) and mollusks (clams, mussels, oysters, scallops). Crustaceans are responsible for the majority of shellfish reactions, which are usually severe. Being allergic to shellfish does not always mean that a person is also allergic to fish, but you still need to be careful.

  • Common sources : all kinds of seafood.
  • Unexpected sources : Asian dishes that use fish sauce as a flavor base.


As a member of the legume family, soybeans alone are not normally found in American diets. However, they are frequently used in processed food products and form the basis of many meat substitutes.

  • Common sources : Edamame, soy sauce, tempeh, tofu.
  • Unexpected sources : canned tuna, processed meat, crackers, canned soups.


The latest member of the Big Eight is wheat, which is also at the root of gluten intolerance. If your guests are allergic to wheat, use alternative grains like barley, quinoa, rice, and rye.

  • Common sources : bread, couscous, flour, seitan.
  • Unexpected sources : ice cream, imitation crab, marinara sauce, processed meat.

While sesame is considered the ninth most common allergen, current US federal law does not require food manufacturers to declare it.

Allergy Food Safe Serving Supplies:

To keep your restaurant Safe for customers with allergies, always use color-coded kitchen supplies. These can range from knives and containers to tongs and measuring cups, so taking inventory of your entire inventory is essential before purchasing allergen-safe cookware. Purple products are most often used to prepare meals for guests with food allergies. 

To completely eliminate the risk of cross-contact, designate the equipment to be used for allergen-sensitive foods only and ensure it is labeled and stored separately.

Check out the following allergen-safe food service supplies:

Allergy Food Markers Purple Slotted Turners Purple tongs Purple dishers
View service View service View service View service
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Creation of a menu for the restaurant for allergens

shellfish allergy
Photo: WebstaurantStore

Un restaurant menu Concise is your first line of defense in protecting guests with food allergies, so be sure to craft yours accordingly. Consider doing the following:

  • Use text, icons and other abbreviations in your menu to indicate the big eight.
  • Provide a general liability waiver for the restaurant menu for foods that cannot be modified to accommodate food allergies. For example, say, "All fried items are prepared in oil that is also used to cook shellfish, fish, and breaded items."
  • Offer substitutes like gluten-free muffins, dairy-free creamer, and dishes made with vegetable oil instead of peanut oil.
  • Market allergy-friendly foods by specifically denoting them on your menu and on menu boards.
  • Include a notice on your menu and on menu boards that says, "Before ordering, please inform your server if someone in your party has a food allergy.

Whether you run a restaurant From fine dining, a family-style buffet, or a sports bar, creating a concise menu that explicitly addresses food allergens will help your establishment better cater to all of your customers.

FALCPA compliance

If you are a food supplier, it is essential that you comply with the requirements of FALCPA (Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act). Read on to learn more.

What is FALCPA?

FALCPA requires that any food regulated by the Administrators Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is labeled in a specific way to identify any of the "Big Eight" allergens. This makes it easy for consumers and restaurateurs to quickly determine common allergens. FALCPA is an amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and applies to all labeled food products as of January 1, 2006.

How FALCPA Affects Your Business

checking food labels for allergies

The FDA sometimes conducts inspections of foodservice companies and also has the authority to have companies recall products with undeclared food allergens. If you run a retail or foodservice establishment that packages, labels, and sells products for human consumption, FALCPA labeling applies to your business. This includes packaged foods, conventional foods, vitamins, dietary supplements, baby foods, medical foods, items in vending machines, and packages labeled "for individual sale."

In general, meat, poultry, and alcoholic beverages are not subject to FALCPA labeling. Meat, poultry, and most egg products are already regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Bureau of Commerce, Alcohol and Tobacco Taxes oversees alcoholic beverages and alcoholic beverages. tobacco items. Similarly, fresh fruits and vegetables, highly refined oils derived from a member of the Big Eight, and foods placed in containers in response to a person's command are exempt from FALCPA labeling.

The FALCPA labeling also applies to all packaged foods other than USDA regulated foods. Likewise, the flavors, colors, and additives that contain allergens from the Big Eight must be labeled.

Businesses that fail to comply with the FALCPA labeling requirements may be subject to the civil and criminal penalties provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Any product with undeclared allergens will also be subject to recall. Companies that believe their food products should be exempt from FALCPA can ask the Secretary of Health and Human Services for scientific evidence to support their claim.

FALCPA labeling requirements

FALCPA labeling requirements are met if the common or customary name of an ingredient (i.e. whey) that is a major food allergen already identifies the name of the food source of that allergen (i.e. milk). Otherwise, the name of the allergen's food source must be declared at least once on the food label in one of two ways:

  1. In parentheses after the ingredient name. For example: "Lecithin (soy), Flour (wheat) and Whey (milk)".
  2. Immediately after or next to the ingredient list in a "contains" statement. For example: "Contains soy, wheat and milk."

food allergies

Complying with FALCPA labeling requirements not only keeps your customers safe, it also helps protect your business from potential liability.

Allergen Safe School Food Service

allergen safe school food
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Statistically speaking, children are more susceptible to allergic reactions to food in school settings. The CDC reports that between 16 and 18% of children with food allergies have had allergic reactions due to accidental ingestion of allergens at school. Additionally, 25% of food-induced anaphylaxis reactions in schools occur among students without a prior food allergy diagnosis.

Certain federal laws require schools to provide appropriate accommodations, substitutions, and services to children with life-threatening food allergies. Similarly, life-threatening food allergies can be considered a disability.

Ensuring the safety of students

To ensure that students are kept safe in their school cafeteria or at any school-sponsored activity off campus, be sure to take the following steps:

  • Identify students with allergies and develop a written management plan to address allergic reactions that includes medication protocols.
  • Gather appropriate documentation for allergen-sensitive students, including a dietary prescription from a licensed healthcare provider.
  • Effectively execute the plan management from your school in the event a student experiences an allergic reaction on school grounds.

Additionally, you can avoid cross-contact on your cafeteria's service line by:

  • Place allergen and nutrition cards on food shields and sneeze guards.
  • Use proprietary protectors to eliminate cross contact.
  • Do not use the same ladle, tongs, shovel, or other utensils to serve more than one specific dish or ingredient.

Knowing how to protect school, college, or daycare students from known food allergens and being ready to effectively address potential reactions is essential to running a successful educational facility.

Accommodating customers with food allergies is not just a public health and safety issue, it can also provide greater income opportunities. You can easily earn the trust of your customers by offering ingredient substitutions, managing cross-contact, and including precise food allergy disclaimers. Doing so will help your guests feel comfortable dining at your establishment and keep them coming back for years to come.

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food allergies