In a world where dietary requirements are increasingly changing, it’s more important than ever for food businesses to adhere to compliance around allergens. The need for care and attention to avoid cross-contamination and offer food alternatives free from allergies is a key part of being a responsible food business.
We know that customer safety is your biggest priority! Without their custom and trust, your business wouldn’t be what it is today! That’s why good food hygiene standards are so important in keeping your customers safe! In this blog, we’ll look at different types of allergen-free foods, and how food hygiene measures can help safeguard both your customers and your business.
Why do food allergies occur?
If you don’t suffer from any allergy whatsoever, then you can count yourself lucky! It’s estimated that 2 million people in the UK have a diagnosed food allergy. Sadly, allergies can occur at any time. They can be hereditary, but they can also develop in later life. A food allergy causes the immune system to react differently to certain food types.
The body releases chemicals to fight off the supposed threat of proteins, but the release of these chemicals causes a variety of unpleasant symptoms to develop. Why does this happen? Well, it’s still relatively unknown why an individual may suddenly react differently. However, running a food business means you need to know about allergens to mitigate any risk.
The most common food allergies
Although the food market is vastly populated with thousands of dishes and ingredients, allergies stem from a select few food types. Children are most likely to suffer from a food allergy to the following foods:
- Tree Nuts
Similarly, adults are most prone to develop allergies from some of the above, with wheat and fruit also considered high-risk.
Allergen-free food - what does it mean?
You’ve likely been asked by a customer if you have any gluten-free options available. If you’re a business that specialises in baked goods, perhaps, you’ve been asked if you serve peanut-free cakes or brownies. These are two common examples of what we call allergen-free foods.
Because each allergen is unique to every individual, it’s impossible to offer a blanket definition of ‘allergy-free’ that covers the dietary requirements of all. Allergen-free describes any type of food that contains zero allergens. There are fourteen in total, and legally, you’re liable to provide allergen information on every food product that you sell. Our blog post on the 14 food allergens explores each one in much more detail.
Different types of allergy-free foods
Catering for all types of dietary requirements is a must. It’s a surefire way to appeal to a wider customer base which helps your business to grow. Lots of eateries and food businesses now offer dedicated menus that offer allergen-free dishes. Below, we’ve compiled a list of different food types and ingredients that you can incorporate into your menu.
Vegetables - A great source of nutrition and health, most vegetables are completely allergen-free. Get creative with your selections by offering dishes that include spinach, kale, cauliflower, sweet potatoes or carrots.
Gluten-free grains - Many types of grain contain gluten which is considered an allergen. There are however lots of tasty alternatives deemed safe and free from gluten including rice, corn, quinoa and buckwheat.
Legumes - Natural legumes are considered gluten-free. If you purchase processed variations of these foods, cross-contamination during the process stage can occur. Always use natural versions for your peace of mind. Black beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas are safe to use. They also offer great sources of fibre and can be used to create some amazing meals!
Dairy alternatives - The boom in dairy-free milk alternatives means there are so many options to choose from. This includes almond, coconut and allergen-free oat milk.
Proteins and meats - Unlike fish and shellfish, most meats are free of allergens. In their pure form, fresh chicken, beef, turkey, pork and lamb are all safe options that don’t contain allergens. Treat any processed meats with caution, they may contain added preservatives or flavourings that do contain allergens.
Cross-contamination and allergies
While you can’t control cross-contamination away from your business, you can deploy food hygiene standards that prevent it from happening in your food preparation areas. Adopt simple but effective measures, such as separate fryers for gluten-free foods and foods containing gluten.
Other measures to avoid cross-contamination include:
- Clean and disinfect all surfaces thoroughly
- Use separate equipment for preparing and making allergen-free dishes
- Provide appropriate clothing for allergen-free food preparation
- Label any food items and equipment clearly to avoid use in the wrong areas
The tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse was a result of an allergic reaction to an undeclared ingredient in a pre-packed food product. This saw the introduction of Natasha’s Law, a piece of legislation aimed at protecting consumers.
Discover more about food allergies with our courses
Now that you have a little more understanding of allergen-free foods, why not increase your knowledge with one of our dedicated online courses? Our Food Allergy Awareness Training course offers a deeper insight into the different types of food allergens and how to manage risk effectively for your food business.
We also offer the following online courses and bundles that cover food safety, offering you an interactive training delivery to help your business and staff grow.
- Food Hygiene Level 1 Online Course
- Food Hygiene Level 2 Online Course
- Food Hygiene Level 3 Online Course
- Food Hygiene Levels 1-3 Course Package