Chances are if you work in a restaurant, you don’t have much if any, food allergies. So it’s reasonable then for you to forget about them every now and again, or to not fully understand them. As our awareness of food allergies continues to expand, misunderstandings shift into myths that can be harmful to your customers if you can’t separate fact from fiction.
Nutri-Rific offers food safety certificates online, including one for food allergens. Today, let’s explore some of the most common myths out there about food allergies.
Food Allergies are Just Food Intolerances
These two terms are often used interchangeably, but incorrectly. A food intolerance, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, is when an individual struggles to digest a certain food. This can result in issues like gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Food intolerances are an issue in the digestive system, whereas food allergies are complications with the immune system. While some foods can trigger uncomfortable feelings for those with food intolerances, that’s about the limit of their effects. Those with food allergies can face life-threatening complications if they are exposed to even a small amount of a certain food.
Food Allergies Fade Over Time
While there is a body of research that suggests that our allergies change as we age, this isn’t always the case for everyone. In many cases, people falsely assume that their allergies have gone away when in reality, their allergy symptoms have simply lessened in severity. But improved symptoms aren’t any indication that the allergy is no longer a concern. The only way to determine if an allergy has truly disappeared is to work with a trained allergist.
Food Allergies Develop in Childhood
It’s true that many of our major allergies develop in our early years, but that does not mean you cannot develop an allergy at a later time. The proteins in fruits and vegetables share many characteristics with common food allergens. This means that an individual can develop an allergy at nearly any stage in life.
Just a Little Can’t Hurt
Many assume that an allergic reaction can only be triggered by a large amount of the food being consumed. This isn’t always true, and in some cases, even the smallest amounts of the food can trigger a severe reaction.
For someone with a food allergy to live a healthy and happy life, they need to avoid the allergen completely. This means even taking care to avoid cross-contact, which occurs when an allergen comes into contact with other foods that can typically be consumed without concern. When cross-contact occurs, the allergen contaminates the other food, making it inedible.
You Can Develop Immunity by Eating Small Amounts
Through a process called desensitization, the effects of some allergies can be reduced. In effect, an individual is exposed to minute amounts of the allergen over a period of time by injecting the allergen extracts into their bodies. This has been found to be an effective form of allergy treatment for some allergies like pollens. That said, there has been no conclusive evidence to show that desensitization injections or treatments are effective for food allergies.
Food Allergies Aren’t That Bad
While this myth isn’t entirely wrong, it’s not entirely accurate either. Every individual with food allergies has different reactions which can vary in severity. For some, being exposed to a food allergen can lead to hives and a stuffy nose. For others, the same allergen can trigger respiratory issues or a loss of consciousness.
Additionally, allergic responses occur at variable rates and through different vectors. For instance, individuals are typically exposed to an allergen through inhalation, consumption, or contact. Once exposed, their reaction could be instantaneous or may occur hours later. As such, food allergies should be taken seriously so that no one is put at risk.
Allergy Reactions Get Worse With Each Exposure
The troubling reality is that it is difficult to determine how someone will react to an allergen every time they’re exposed to it. While one reaction may be more severe than the last time it occurred, that doesn’t mean it will get worse in the future. In fact, an individual may have a mild reaction after a very serious one. This is complicated by the fact that there are no mild or severe food allergies. Instead, there are only mild and severe reactions.
Due to the unpredictability of the reaction to an allergen, it’s important to take steps to avoid the allergens, and have the proper treatment options nearby just in case.
All Allergy Inducing Ingredients are Listed on Food Packaging
In 2004, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act. Essentially, the FALCPA made it a legal requirement to display the eight most common allergens on the side of packaged foods sold in the U.S. At a glance, these allergens include:
- Tree nuts
The FALCPA ensures that these ingredients have to be on labels, even if there is only a trace amount of them in the product. But this list does not account for all of the possible allergens out there. Allergen ingredients can be found in a variety of places, and many are not listed.
Craft Healthier Meals and Keep Your Customers Healthy
Managing food allergens in your restaurant or kitchen can be challenging if you don’t have the right tools and knowledge. Fortunately, Nutri-Rific is here to provide you with just that! We’ve created an online food safety certificate that goes over everything you need to know about food allergens.
Available in both Spanish and English, our training class can be completed in as little as two hours and can be completed online. Thanks to its mobile-friendly design, you can even take this food safety class while you’re on the go! Get the training that you and your staff needs. Find out more about our food allergen classes and then sign up for your own today!