Food Allergy Awareness Week takes place between 12th and 18th May and aims to raise awareness of different food allergies and improve public understanding of what can sometimes be a life-threatening condition. Our dedicated Nutritionist, Sarah Cloete, discusses the increasing issue of food allergies and provides an insight into how Radish is working to manage it:
“Food allergies are becoming more common and are increasing in severity worldwide. It is thought that around 2 million people in the UK have a diagnosed food allergy, with 1 in every 14 children under the age of 3 having at least one food allergy. UK hospital admissions have increased by 500% since 1990 with the most common causes being an allergy to milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, nuts, fish and shellfish.
Adverse reactions occur when the body reacts to proteins in food and mistakes them for being harmful. The immune system, in turn, produces an antibody to “fight off” the food. Symptoms can include itching or swelling in the skin, itchy throat, runny nose or sneezing, abdominal pain, vomiting, a cough or wheeze and in the most severe cases anaphylaxis, unconsciousness and death. Symptoms can develop within a couple of minutes or a couple of hours.
While there is no cure for a food allergy, children diagnosed with allergies to milk or eggs are sometimes able to outgrow the allergy by the age of 16. Living with a food allergy can be incredibly challenging as the best way to avoid a reaction is to identify the cause and avoid the food completely, and despite legislation now being in place to ensure proper food labelling, it is still not easy.
The Food Standards Agency has clear guidelines to ensure that allergen information is clear for consumers on both pre-packed and non-prepacked food or drink. Problem and safe food items have to be stored separately in sealed containers to prevent cross contamination. Food preparation areas, utensils and equipment must be properly cleaned before preparing safe and then unsafe foods. But key for the safety of consumers is that the companies who prepare, package and sell the food, are well educated.
At Radish, we take the risk to our customers’ health incredibly seriously and strive to ensure that they can all see accurate and up-to-date allergen information for the food we serve. A large proportion of our customer base is made up of either children in school environments or the elderly in assisted living settings – for both groups, even a minor allergic reaction can have catastrophic consequences so we prioritise their safety. We have invested in a back of house system which covers all food items in storage and at the various stages of production, and front of house we label all pre-packaged goods. We also use external auditors on a regular basis to ensure that procedures are being followed across all of our contracts.
We provide allergen information for non-pre-packaged food on the counter for each dish across all of our sites or display an allergen sheet for the day’s menu. We work hard to identify the risks associated with food allergies and establish allergen procedures and controls from procurement to service which are constantly monitored and reviewed for effectiveness. Over the past few years we have strengthened our allergen process to make it as water tight as possible – all staff receive relevant and ongoing training, so they remain aware of food allergens and their consequences. We are dedicated to making sure all of our customers can access the relevant allergen information, so they can make informed choices and feel confident and safe.”