Food allergies are no laughing matter

A generation ago, sufferers of food allergies often avoided eating out, as they could never be sure whether their meal contained something which could sicken or kill them.

Thankfully, awareness of this issue has been on the rise in recent years, making it easier for those affected to dine with confidence.

However, despite the fact one in 20 children and one in 50 adults are affected by this serious issue, some operators still wonder why they need to account for every possible allergy.

The reason for doing so is clear to anyone with a conscience: by exposing those affected to a substance to which they are allergic, a severe anaphylactic reaction can occur. This causes sudden, rapid swelling throughout the body (particularly in the trachea), putting the victim at risk of death if countermeasures (e.g. use of an EpiPen) aren’t quickly introduced.

Recognising the public health threat this posed, the Australian government has made laws which compel packaged food manufacturers to disclose whether their products contain a known food allergen.

The Food Standards Code dictates if your product contains wheat, lupin, soy, fish, shellfish, sesame seeds, eggs, milk, tree nuts, or peanuts, this fact must be disclosed on packaging.

However, if the product was made in a facility where it may have come into contact with an allergenic substance, disclosing this fact is voluntary, and thus, is not mandated by law.

The laws which apply to restaurateurs are a bit laxer. While they are strongly advised to disclose whether a dish contains or may have come into contact with one of the allergens listed above, they also have the option of simply disclosing this information when requested by a customer.

This makes allergy sufferers hesitant to eat at any establishment where clear measures have not been taken to segregate or eliminate known allergens.

For this reason, an increasing number of food service establishments have become more proactive on this front, despite not being legally mandated to do so.

Failing to comply with the above-mentioned legislation can get costly for offending operators. Depending on the severity of the violation and where it takes place, owners can be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in fines; in Victoria, those unable or unwilling to pay can face up to six months in jail.

Avoid messy situations like these by taking relevant courses offered by Start Your Own Food Business. An e-learning company which educates new and established entrepreneurs how to run legally compliant, safe, and profitable food businesses in Australia, they possess the knowledge needed to stay out of trouble with the authorities.

Not only will their courses help you stay on the right side of the law, they can also help you avoid being at the centre of a public relations fiasco, the likes of which often occur when news of a food allergic reaction hits social media.