Allergens are substances that trigger an allergic reaction. In most people, these allergens are harmless and have no effect at all; however, for those that are allergic (hypersensitive), the body’s response is to attack the allergen. In this case, the immune system mistakenly believes the allergen to be a threat, and reacts by creating antibodies – releasing histamines, as well as other chemicals that ultimately create what we recognise as an allergic reaction.
In some cases, such as those who experience anaphylaxis (the most severe form of allergic reaction), this response can be potentially life-threatening. In highly allergic people, even just one fourty-four-thousandth (1/44,000th) of a peanut can prompt an allergic response.
Allergies are not to be confused with intolerances: These are different as they do not involve the immune system, and generally will not be life-threatening – however, they can still make you extremely ill.
The statistics surrounding allergies
In the UK, it’s estimated that between 5-8% of all children and 1-2% of adults have an allergy to food. This equates to around 2 million people.
Between 1998 and 2018, at least 30,700 people were admitted to the hospital for anaphylaxis caused by a food trigger, and over the same 20 year period, at least 152 deaths were identified where the fatal event was probably caused by food-induced anaphylaxis.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for food allergies, which means that the only way to manage the issue is to avoid the foods which cause the allergy.
Through strict control measures, and ensuring areas where food is both prepared and packaged are kept controlled, we can help lower the risk. All food packaging by law has to state if that food contains one of the 14 major allergens.
Food Allergy Awareness Training
Here at iHASCO, we offer an online Food Allergy Awareness Training course that is essential for anybody whose job involves producing, selling, or handling food. It is essential that all staff handling food should have a thorough understanding of allergens and the potential dangers surrounding them, and our IOSH Approved course helps the user to understand and work towards compliance with the Food Information Regulations and other laws surrounding food.
The course can be completed in just 35 minutes and provides the user with a printable certificate upon completion of the end-of-training test.