The Food Allergies Every Food Safety Supervisor Should Know About

With food allergies becoming more prevalent, food safety is more important than ever, especially for anyone handling food for public consumption. Anyone who possesses a food allergy can readily attest to how inconvenient and dangerous it can be when dealing with prepared meals from either takeaway or outings, and they need to know that, when they choose to go out to eat, what they consume is safe for them. As a food safety supervisor, it is your job to be informed of the various food allergies and to teach your staff the appropriate food and utensil handling procedures to avoid cross-contamination. It will also be your job to know exactly what goes into each dish as well as how each is prepared so that you are prepared to answer any questions posed by health-conscious clients.

The following are considered “the big eight” of food allergies that every food safety supervisor should be aware of:

  1. dairy
  2. wheat
  3. eggs
  4. soy
  5. peanuts
  6. tree nuts
  7. fish
  8. shellfish

Dealing with one allergy alone is relatively easy, as these are the most common. Dealing with multiple allergies at once, however, is far less so. As a food safety supervisor you should be prepared to offer suggestions for adequate substitute ingredients that will satisfy customers’ health requirements without sacrificing the integrity of the recipe or the resulting taste of the meal.

Before one can think about proper food substitutes, one must know what to look for when checking for possible allergens. The following are lists of identifiers for dairy, wheat and egg products, what foods they may be found in and suggestions for substitutes. While these are by no means comprehensive lists, they should give a dedicated food safety supervisor a decent starting point from which to expand knowledge.

Dairy: Allergy involves immune system reaction to milk proteins, which differs from the inability to digest milk sugar (lactose intolerance).

  • Identifiers: Milk and/or milk solids; casein and any form of caseinate (e.g. sodium caseinate); whey; anything with a “lact-” prefix (e.g. lactalbumin, lactulose, lactoferrin, lactic acid); butter and/or butter flavour; margarine; cheese.
  • Contained in: All baked goods made with milk (e.g. breads); all types of cream and cream-based sauces and soups (including white sauces); all types of milk (including powdered and evaporated forms); all types of cheese (including rennet, cottage cheese and soy cheese); buttermilk; yoghurt; ice cream, ice milk, sherbet and any other frozen dessert made with milk-based ingredients; custards and puddings; au gratin, scalloped or creamed products; instant cocoa, breakfast drinks and cereals containing dried milk or milk derivatives; any vegetable- or meat-based dish made with any of the above.

Suggested substitutes for recipes:

  • Milk: Rice milk, oat milk, almond milk, soy milk (verify there are no milk-based ingredients); fruit juices can be substituted in some baking; chicken, vegetable or beef broth can work in mashed potatoes and casserole dishes.
  • Cheese: Several varieties of vegan cheeses exist, though some experimentation may be required before you hit upon one with the right combination of taste and texture.
  • Yoghurt or sour cream: Soy-based derivatives are more or less your only viable options (e.g. soy-based yoghurt or soft tofu blended until smooth), which is unfortunate for those who also have soy allergies.

 

Wheat: Allergy involves immune system reaction to the various wheat proteins, which differs from gluten sensitivity disorders such as celiac disease (where gluten damages the small intestine and inhibits nutrient absorption).

  • Identifiers: Wheat types (gluten, malt, bran, germ) and wheat grass; all kinds of flour and most starches (e.g. wheat starch, vegetable starch, modified starch); durum farina and semolina; triticale (rye and wheat combination); couscous; bread crumbs; bulgur; matzo; hydrolyzed protein.
  • Contained in: All wheat-based pasta; anything made and/or thickened with flour; any wheat-based baked goods; any dish containing bread, cracker or panko crumbs; pancakes and waffles; beer.

Suggested substitutes for recipes:

  • Baking: Barley flour will work as long as the allergy is specifically to wheat and not gluten. Gluten- and wheat-free flours may require the addition of xanthan gum for the dough to rise better. Oat, barley and rice flour will work for pancakes and waffles.
  • Pasta: Several varieties of wheat-free pasta are available; these are typically made from corn, potato, rice or quinoa.
  • Gravies and sauces: Thicken with tapioca starch, cornstarch or potato starch.

 

Eggs: Allergy involves immune system reaction to either the white or the yolk (or both) and can result in anaphylaxis (itchiness, throat swelling shut, a drop in blood pressure; requires immediate medical attention).

  • Identifiers: Egg in all forms (powdered, dried, egg solids); lecithin; globulin; ovomucoid, ovotransferrin, ovovitelia, ovovitellin, vitellin, apovitellin; simplesse; albumin, silici albuminate; lysozyme; livetin; meringue.
  • Contained in: most baked goods (e.g. cakes, cookies, muffins); pancakes and waffles; eggnog; mayonnaise; quiche; French toast; soufflés; any dish that uses egg as part of a coating or filling; anything made with egg substitutes; any dish containing egg noodles or pieces of egg (e.g. egg rolls); custards, puddings and cream puffs; chocolate, fondants and marshmallows.

Suggested substitutes for recipes:

  • Baking: Applesauce possesses similar binding properties to egg yolk; ¼ cup applesauce can replace one egg in many recipes.
  • Sauces: There are commercially available egg substitutions made from potato or tapioca starch.

 

dedicated food safety supervisor

Photo Credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brunogirin/3767403406/

Any food safety supervisor who takes their job seriously will be aware of these major allergy categories and will take steps in their food preparation areas to keep allergens separated from “safe” foods and to ensure all cooking implements are thoroughly washed and sanitized between each use to cut down the risk of cross-contamination. Some may think such meticulousness is a waste of time and may choose to cut corners in order to maximize efficiency in the kitchen; the end result of hospitalized clients or death of client, a bad professional reputation and perhaps even your business shut down, is hardly preferable.

As this is only a basic starting point in food safety, feel free to take advantage of the many food safety courses available either online or via correspondence. These offer the opportunity to study at your own pace, which is ideal for those who are constantly on the go but cannot afford to be ignorant of these common allergens. As a food safety supervisor, the health of your clients is in your hands – make sure your hands are clean.

FoodSafetyNow.com has food handling certificate courses for food safety supervisor that are convenient, affordable and comply with state and territory legislation.

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