Not to be sneezed at, knowing your allergens and your ‘vegan’ from ‘coeliac’ is now more important than ever.
Allergy awareness is an increasingly important part of menu planning and prep because allergies are widely reported as being on the rise. Customers need to trust your business and be confident that you’ve taken the extra steps needed.
Fortunately, with the support of Erudus (read more here), it needn’t bring you a headache. In fact, the positive word-of-mouth recommendations that come from taking your responsibilities seriously will bring repeat customer and increased revenue.
The Food Information Regulation, which came into force in December 2014, introduced a requirement that good businesses must provide information about the allergenic ingredients used in any food they sell or provide. There are 14 major allergens which need to be clearly mentioned as ‘contains’, ‘may contain’ (either on menus or labels) when they are used as ingredients. Follow our guide to ‘The Big 14’ below…
Gluten wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan wheat/Kamut), rye, barley and oats can be found in flour, some types of baking powder, batter, breadcrumbs, bread, cakes, couscous, meat products, pasta, pastry, sauces, soups and fried foods which are dusted with flour.
Fish allergy is more common in adults that in children, but it can often be severe, and frequently causes anaphylaxis. All the major fish allergens cross-react in terms of their allergenicity and no fish is safe for fish allergic patients. Some foods that trigger an allergic reaction are: fish (all species), fish extracts, fish sauce, fish oils, fish paste, Worcester sauce (some brands) and omega-3 rich oils derived from fish.
These include mussels, land snails, squid and whelks, but can also be commonly found in oyster sauce or as an ingredient in fish stews.
Allergy to crustacea is quite common. People who are sensitive can react to different types of crustacean, e.g. shrimps, prawns and lobsters. Crustacea often cause severe reactions, and some people can react to cooking vapours. Some people allergic to crustacea also react to molluscs. Shrimp paste, often in Thai and south-east Asian curries or salads, is an ingredient to look out for.
Egg allergy is common in young children, but more than half the children affected grow out of this allergy by age three. Egg can cause anaphylactic reactions in some individuals. Avoid using the following for people with an egg allergy: egg powder, dried egg or pasteurised egg, albumin, egg glaze and mayonnaise.
Peanuts (also known as ground nuts and monkey nuts) are a common cause of food allergy, affecting 1-2% of the UK population. They can cause severe, anaphylactic reactions, and are the most common cause of fatal food allergy. Peanut allergy is commonly acquired in childhood and seldom resolves with age. A significant proportion of people with a peanut allergy also react to tree nuts, and there is also allergenic cross-reactivity with other members of the legume family, such as soya and lupin. Heat treatment, especially roasting, increases the allergenicity of peanuts.
Part of the legume family soya is a staple ingredient in oriental food such as edamame beans, miso pastes and tofu, but can also be found in desserts, ice cream, meat products, sauces and vegetarian products. Soya allergy is more common in young children, but children often grow out of soya allergy by two years of age. Adults are occasionally affected. Allergenic cross-reactivity between soya and other legumes, including peanut, is possible and there are some reports of cross-reactivity between soya and cows’ milk.
Cows’ milk allergy is the most common food allergy in young children and affects 2-7% of babies under one year of age. About 87% of children grow out of milk allergy by age three. There is a high degree of cross-reactivity between cows’ milk and milk of other mammals such as, sheep, goats and buffalo. Milk is a common ingredient in butter, cheese, cream, milk powders and yoghurt. It can also be found in foods brushed or glazed with milk, and in powdered soups and sauces.
Not to be mistaken with peanuts (which are a legume and grow underground), this ingredient refers to nuts which grow on trees, like cashew nuts, almonds and hazelnuts. Multiple nut sensitivities are frequent, as well as cross reactivity with peanuts. People rarely grow out of a nut allergy. 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.
10. Celery (and Celeriac)
Celery is a common cause of oral allergy syndrome amongst adults in mainland Europe, however, allergies to celery and celeriac are not common in the UK. This includes celery stalks, leaves, seeds and root celeriac. Celery is found in salads, some meat products, soups and stock cubes.
Mustard allergy is not common in the UK but is common in France where it has been reported to cause severe reactions. It can be found in the form of mustard powder, mustard seeds or liquid.
Allergy to sesame is increasing in the UK and can cause severe reactions including anaphylaxis. There is some allergenic cross-reactivity between nuts and seeds. These seeds can often be found in bread (sprinkled on hamburger buns for example), bread sticks, houmous, sesame oil and tahini. They are sometimes toasted and used in salads.
13. Sulphur Dioxide (sometimes known as sulphites)
Sulphite additives in wine have been associated with triggering asthmatic responses in sensitive individuals, mostly in asthmatic patients. It is also found in dried fruit such as raisins, dried apricots and prunes. You might also find it in meat products, soft drinks, vegetables and beer.
Lupin is a flour but can also be found in regular flour. Lupin flour and seeds can be found in some breads, pastries and pasta.
Aside from allergies, specific dietary requirements are also on the rise, and it is increasingly expected by modern consumers that caterers will have a good selection of options ready. The most common dietary needs are outlined below:
Vegetarians mostly eat plants with the addition of dairy products and eggs, but with no meat or fish.
A pescatarian is a person who eats seafood but no other types of meat. Pescatarians are like vegetarians, but the difference is that pescatarians eat fish and shellfish in addition to an otherwise vegetarian diet.
Veganism is both the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products. Vegans do not eat beef, pork, poultry fowl, game or seafood, eggs, dairy or any other animal products such as gelatine.
Intolerance to the gluten found in wheat, rye and barley requires strict adherence to a gluten-free diet. This can be found in flour, batter, breadcrumbs, cakes, meat products, pasta, pastry, sauces and fried foods.
Nearly 4 million people in the UK suffer from diabetes, characterised by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action or both. Carbohydrates are the key to a successful dietary management of diabetes. People with diabetes need to stay away from high glycaemic foods such as bagels, bread, cookies and cake. Many of our products that are vegan, gluten free, and/or dairy free are also low in sugar and helpful for those with diabetes.
If you would appreciate support in preparing dishes or menus to appeal to those with such allergies or dietary requirements, then please do not hesitate to ask your Account Manager. We’ve plenty of experience and would be delighted to help.