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Food Safety: Food Allergies.

Byline: Fran Collison

While most people can happily

sit down to a meal and enjoy

the food, someone with a food allergy can have a violent allergic reaction Au and potentially even die Au by consuming a particular food or even traces of certain foods.

A food allergy is our immune system responding to a food that the body mistakenly believes is harmful. Allergies are becoming more common, particularly in the West, and of course with the growing number of tourists coming to Oman, it is important that we are aware of the dangers and of what we can do to reduce the risk.

Anaphylaxis is the most serious symptom of an allergic reaction where the throat closes, blood pressure falls and people fall unconscious.

It is not classed as a food-borne disease because most people can eat the foods with no side effects, but it is important to recognise anaphylaxis as a serious risk to certain people.

Foods commonly associated with allergies are

fish, milk, shellfish, nuts, celery, sesame seeds and soya. In fact, the European Union requires any food products containing these items to be clearly labelled.

Other additives and ingredients in foods can also cause an allergic reaction or intolerance. Monosodium glutamate (commonly known as the brand Ajinomoto, the company which patented the product) is also known to cause reactions.

Dealing with allergies starts with communication. Once you know you have an allergy to a

certain food, you should read the label on packaged foods and think about what foods you should avoid. Many food manufacturers put simple labels on food saying if they contain known allergens. Some supermarkets in the UK put up signs in the bakery area saying that they cannot guarantee any of the bakery items have not come into contact with nuts. If you go to a restaurant, make sure you are very clear with your instructions to the staff; if you are not convinced that they understand your requirements then either find someone who does or perhaps rethink your choice of restaurant.

Restaurants and food busin-esses serving meals can indicate common allergy-causing foods on menus but if a customer has a severe allergy then it is possible that traces of it can be found on surfaces and equipment that are used to prepare the customerAAEs meal. Making sure that equipment is thoroughly cleaned is also very important.

Staff should know the ingredients used in dishes and also be aware of oils and other ingredients that may unknowingly contain traces of the food the customer is allergic to.

On a positive note, scientists in the UK believe they have found the cure for peanut allergies. By feeding tiny doses to one patient, a young boy was cured. Hopefully we will see more advancement in science in the near future.

In the meantime, the

public and food businesses must continue to communicate and reduce the risk of food allergies.

Fran Collison is GM of Food Safety Consultancy, a training and consultancy firm that focuses on innovative and enduring food safety solutions for the food industry. For details, email

Apex Press and Publishing

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Publication:The Week (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Apr 19, 2009
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