Today is Food Allergy Day, part of Allergy Awareness Week. A food allergy is currently thought to affect 5–8% of young children and 3–4% of adults.
A number of studies have found that allergies to food, particularly in children, are rising within the UK. Since 1990 it is said that the number of children admitted to hospital for food-related anaphylaxis has risen by 700%. It is not known why allergies are rising, but theories include changes in diet and improved levels of hygiene, which leave children’s immune systems underexposed to germs.
In the UK, about ten people die every year from food-induced anaphylaxis, and for those at greatest risk, the tiniest trace of food allergen can trigger severe symptoms, and in some cases, cause fatal or near-fatal symptoms. Teenagers and young adults seem to be at particular risk of severe reactions and many of those who die or suffer ‘near miss’ reactions had no idea that they were at risk.
There are 14 main food allergens:
- Cereals containing gluten, namely: wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan wheat), rye, barley, oats
- Crustaceans for example prawns, crabs, lobster, crayfish
- Nuts; namely almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia (or Queensland) nuts
- Celery (including celeriac)
- Sulphur dioxide/sulphites, where added and at a level above 10mg/kg in the finished product. This can be used as a preservative in dried fruit
- Lupin which includes lupin seeds and flour and can be found in types of bread, pastries and pasta
- Molluscs like clams, mussels, whelks, oysters, snails and squid
Allergy sufferers may find it difficult to know which food products and menu items contain ingredients they might react to. To make it easier for sufferers to identify any allergens present in their food choices, the 2014 FIR (Food Information Regulations) states that foodservice operators must make their customers aware of potential allergens in the food they sell. Those who pre-package food and sell off-site must highlight allergens in the ingredients list and those that make and sell food on-site must be able to inform customers if allergens are present and back this up with writing if required.
On 13th December this year, foodservice operators that pre-pack their food off-site will also need to provide nutritional information on their food labels to comply with the Food Information Regulations. Providing clearer and more transparent food ingredient information will not only help allergen sufferers, but also help consumers make more informed decisions about the food they eat.
Our online Caterlabel service is perfect for foodservice operators who are looking for a solution for labelling pre-packed foods as it allows users to easily create, prepare and print labels using any Windows or Mac computer with an internet connection. As a cloud-based program Caterlabel is always up-to-date with the latest legislation and removes the worry of producing labels that help customers make informed food choices.
Label 2 Go have recently launched a range of off-the-shelf Free From labels to make it even easier for customers to identify if food is gluten-free or dairy-free. The labels are color-coded and come in three varieties: gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian.