AN AWARENESS raising campaign to highlight the 14 major allergens and help Teessiders make safe and informed food choices is underway.
Middlesbrough Council’s Public Protection Service is supporting Allergy Awareness Week, which runs from Monday, April 25 to Sunday, May 1.
Already Environmental Health officers have been visiting food businesses across the town to raise the issue of allergens and the need for customers to have accurate information if requested.
Food allergies can cause a variety of physical reactions when a sufferer is exposed to particular allergens. For some sufferers even the smallest amount of an allergen can cause a severe adverse reaction.
When eating out, consumers who have a food allergy need to have confidence that the food they are served is free from particular allergens.
There are 14 major allergens: celery, cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs, mustard, nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, soya and sulphur dioxide (sulphites).
Food businesses are required to look at the foods they serve and identify if they contain any of the 14 major allergens.
Therefore, if a customer asks staff about food allergens they must be able to give accurate allergen information. This helps the customer to make an informed and safe food choice.
Environmental Health and Trading Standards Manager Judith Hedgley says: “Food allergies can cause sufferers symptoms ranging from a mild reaction such as stomach or skin irritation to life-threatening conditions such as anaphylactic shock.
“Our Environment Health Team has been visiting food businesses to raise awareness of the need to identify where food allergens are being used and that they must be able to give their customers accurate allergy information if requested.
“Food business can let customers know about the presence of allergens in their food either in writing, by using a poster or other written materials, or verbally, if asked by a customer.
“Consumers who have a food allergy will generally know what foods to avoid. However, it is very easy for food allergens to be hidden in food and if their presence is unknown or not declared this can lead to a serious risk to consumer safety.”
Teesside University serves in excess of 3,400 meals each week to students, staff and visitors and is supporting Allergy Awareness Week.
Malcolm Page, Teesside University Chief Operating Officer, said: “It is our catering team’s priority is to ensure that the meals and snacks served on campus are tasty, nutritious and safe.
“All of the food we serve is carefully checked for the presence of food allergens and ingredients that could cause food intolerance. We make sure that all our customers can be confident of the quality and safety of the food we offer and they have the ability to make healthy and informed food choices.
“We are pleased to support Allergy Awareness Week and Middlesbrough Council’s Environmental Health Team in raising awareness of this important food safety issue.”