What is a Food Allergy? Food allergy is now recognised as an important food safety issue and is caused when the body mistakenly makes an antibody (IgE) to 'fight off' a specific food. When the food is next eaten (or sometimes is just in contact with the skin) it triggers an immune system response which results in the release of histamine and other substances in the body. These cause various symptoms, depending on where in the body they are released. Very rarely the immune system chemicals are released throughout the body, causing a 'systemic' reaction (such as anaphylaxis).
What Could I Be Allergic To? You can be allergic to any food substance. Some of the more common food allergies are peanut allergy; tree nut allergy; egg allergy; milk allergy (dairy allergy); wheat allergy; fish allergy; soya allergy and sesame allergy. Some people also suffer from alcohol allergy, mustard allergy and fruit and vegetable allergies.
What Are the Symptoms of a Food Allergy? Normally food allergy symptoms appear within a few minutes of eating the offending food, although they may be delayed by up to a couple of hours. The symptoms are usually those of 'classic' allergy, some of which are listed below: Gut reactions - Abdominal pain, Vomiting, Diarrhoea Skin reactions - Itching, Swelling (rash or nettle rash) Respiratory reactions - Runny nose, Sneezing, Wheeze, Cough The greatest care must be taken by all food manufacturers either they be small or large; - to formulate foods so as to avoid, wherever possible, inclusion of unnecessary major allergens as ingredients; - to organise raw material supplies, production, production schedules and cleaning procedures so as to prevent cross-contact of products by "foreign" allergens; - to train all personnel in an understanding of necessary measures and the reasons for them; - to comply with the relevant labelling legislation providing appropriate warning, to potential purchasers, of the presence of a major allergen in a product; - to have in place an appropriate system for recall of any product found to contain a major allergen not indicated on the label warning. Under Annex II of the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation No.1169/2011 the following 14 known food allergens that must always be labelled in pre-packed and identified in some way for non-prepacked foods. - Cereals containing gluten, namely: wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan wheat), rye, barley, oats - Crustaceans for example prawns, crabs, lobster, crayfish - Eggs - Fish - Peanuts - Soybeans - Milk - Nuts; namely almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia (or Queensland) nuts - Celery (including celeriac) - Mustard - Sesame - Sulphur dioxide/sulphites, where added and at a level above 10mg/kg in the finished product. - 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 Please check the following link for further guidance https://www.food.gov.uk/science/allergy-intolerance What Is the Difference Between a Food Allergy and Food Intolerance? Food allergy is quite uncommon and normally causes symptoms within a few minutes of eating the offending food or being in contact with the relevant substance. Food intolerance (non-allergic hypersensitivity) is much more common. The onset of symptoms is usually slower and may be delayed by many hours after eating the offending food; the symptoms may also last for many hours, even into the next day. Some common food intolerance's include lactose intolerance; gluten intolerance and histamine intolerance.
How can we measure our food safety culture? Following on from last week’s blog I shall highlight how we could measure culture in our workplace. “How can I manage what cannot be measured?” On our visits on the production floor we can continuously observe the following;
Team member behaviours
E.g. hand washing, work practices, QC checks, and maintenance operations
I.e. is the equipment free from all debris? is there any water pooling on surfaces?
Off the floor we can determine culture by;
Trending our microbiological results including environmental swabs, in process product, PPE, hand swabs and finished product
What issues or areas from improvement were highlighted during recent audits and have these been addressed?
How, Where, When do we train our staff and do we provide refresher training?
Do we provide opportunities for staff to suggest improvements to the plant and process thus allowing them have ownership of what they do
It is also worth noting that the British Retail Consortium have released a draft Version 8 of their standard for industry consultation and one of the items that maybe included is as follows; 1.1.2 The site’s senior management shall have a documented strategic plan for the development and continuing improvement of food safety culture. This shall include:
defined activities involving all sections of the company
an action plan indicating how the activities will be undertaken and intended timescales
review of the effectiveness of completed activities
This shall undoubtedly help in promoting a culture which is continuous thus ensuring consumers are protected from any harm.
REMEMBER FOOD SAFETY HAPPENS WHEN YOU ARE NOT ON-SITE
As a food safety consultant I am always thinking of the risks in today’s food manufacturing environments and how I can improve the service that I provide to my clients. Am I just devising, creating and implementing quality systems to meet differing audit protocols or do I ensure that the business owner and their employees fully appreciate what they do?
Therefore I help them create values, attitudes, competencies and levels of behaviour that ensures the quality system is working in harmony with the bigger picture i.e. we are in the process of establishing a food safety culture.
As with all policies, procedures etc it starts at the top;
Business owners need to lead this culture in what they say and do, “walk the talk”
Employees need to be confident in what they do is correct
Accountability, who continues to drive the culture, simple answer is everyone!
Communication, what we say, when we say it, where we say it and how we say it
Share knowledge what works well and what doesn’t this allows the culture to grow and develop, it is living, it is real life and its long term
Keep learning from other industries, following best practice and again thinking of how this could be brought into a food manufacturing environment
In next week’s blog I shall highlight areas to measure how our food safety culture is performing. I always have the following in my mind when on client sites “how can I manage what cannot be measured”.
“PRIORITIES CHANGE DEPENDING ON THE CIRCUMSTANCES. VALUES DO NOT” – GELLER 2005
REMEMBER FOOD SAFETY HAPPENS WHEN YOU ARE NOT ON-SITE