Catering companies provide their services to many millions of customers every year. A proportion of these will have a food allergy. Fortunately, most of them will be aware of this and will avoid eating anything that is likely to cause an allergic reaction. However, it is not always clear that some foods contain allergens and it is the responsibility of the caterers to make it clear to the customer if this is the case.
There are many foods that bring about an allergic reaction – which is, in fact, a reaction to the protein in the particular food. In this article we list the most common of these and describe some of the potential consequences of inadvertently ingesting a food to which you are allergic.
Nuts and Seeds
One of the most common of allergies is to the peanut, which is, incidentally, a member of the bean family. Peanuts and peanut traces are contained in many foods and it is important for caterers to flag this up for their customers. Although many children suffer from a peanut allergy, some of them may grow out of it when they get older. Other types of nut and some types of seed also produce an allergic reaction in certain individuals.
It is very common for eggs to cause an allergic reaction. It is thought that the allergy is to the protein in the white of the egg rather than the yolk. Once again, many children who have this type of allergy find that they outgrow it as they mature.
Milk, cream and cheese figure highly on the list of products that can cause an allergic reaction. Any foodstuffs that are diary based, including milk powder can promote unpleasant side-effects in a person who is sensitive to dairy protein.
Another of the more common products to cause an allergic reaction is seafood, including crab, prawn, lobster, cockles and mussels. An allergic reaction to seafood can be rapid and severe. Many people who have an allergy to seafood find that it remains with them for their entire lifetime.
A range of other foods, including soy, wheat, maize and certain vegetables can also cause allergic reactions.
Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction
If a person is diagnosed, which is normally by either skin prick testing, a blood test or a food challenges test, they must do everything possible to avoid the food to which they are allergic. In the event that an allergen is inadvertently ingested, the symptoms that follow can include skin rash, such as hives, itching, swelling, which often affects the throat, limiting the ability to swallow and breathe, sickness, sneezing, runny nose and fainting. One type of reaction, anaphylaxis, is a systemic reaction that can result be fatal. If a person suffers from an anaphylactic reaction the common treatment is to rapidly administer adrenaline. Because of the possibility of accidental ingestion of an allergen, many people carry a dose of adrenaline with them in an epi-pen, which allows them to self-administer the medication quickly.
Because there are so many foods that can cause an allergic reaction and because the consequences of an allergic reaction can be so severe, it is vital that caterers clearly point out the ingredients of their foods where this is not immediately apparent. It is equally important that catering companies avoid the risk of cross-contamination of foodstuffs in the preparation and service of their food, as this can cause an unintended exposure to an allergic foodstuff. Finally, caterers should be aware of the nature of an allergic reaction and should train their staff to recognise the symptoms when they arise and to take the appropriate steps to obtain the necessary medical intervention, if necessary.