Regular Courses in Cambridge and in-house training offered nationwide for food handlers to understand the requirements and good practices when with dealing with sufferers of food allergy or intolerance

What causes an allergy?

An allergy develops when the body’s immune system reacts to an allergen as though it is harmful, like it would an infection.

An allergen is any substance that causes your body’s immune system to overreact and produce antibodies against it.

There are thousands of allergens that can trigger allergies, but some of the most common include:

  • Grass and tree pollens (hay fever)
  • Dust mites
  • animal dander (tiny flakes of skin or hair)
  • food allergy (particularly fruits, shellfish and nuts)

How common is food allergy?

Food allergy affects approx 4% of the population, this is higher in young children and children are at a greater risk.  Individuals can be allergic to more than one allergen, making their requirements more complex.

When did the new allergen regulation come in?

The new regulation came in as of 1 January 2014 and came into mandatory force on 13 December 2014

What is the difference between an allergic reaction and intolerance to food?

A true food allergy causes a persons immune system to react and involves numerous organs in the body and is usually immediate.  A food intolerance generally has a longer onset with symptoms coming on gradually and does not involve the immune system.  It is important that if someone feels they have a reaction to food they seek medical advice on how to manage the issue.

Do I have to follow the new regulation?

The regulation became compulsory on 13 December 2014

What is the new allergy regulation?

The regulation introduces a new requirement for allergen information to be provided for foods sold non-packed or pre-packed for direct sale

Who do the new regulations apply to?

All food handlers whether the food they provide is wrapped or open but the way that information is provided is different if food is prepackaged.

Do my staff need allergy training?

Yes. Local authority enforcement officers will check all food handlers have received at least basic allergen training. For all new staff this should be given on their first day and before food handling duties commence.

Do I need to record this training?

Yes. Local authority enforcement officers will check that there is a record of all training.

I am a caterer so how can I inform my customers about allergens?

The regulations state the information can be in any format but it must be readily available to your customers.  Folder, website, computer screen, notice board etc.

I make sandwiches and sell them on the same site do I have to put on a label on the product advising of the allergens?

No but the information must be readily available for the consumer to check.

I prepare foods and then sell at another site should I label them with allergens? 

This is a difficult grey area and we would always advise a caterer to check with their local Trading Standards Officers / Environmental Health Department because it can depend on many issues.  In any event the allergen information must be freely available for your customers.

If I provide an ingredients list book in my cafe is that sufficient to comply with the legislation?

We would suggest this is sufficient but this is on the proviso that the information contained within is correct at the time, is kept up to date and the book itself is readily available.

Why have the government brought in new regulations on food allergens labelling?

This was following an EC directive and it is all about providing information to consumers and making eating out a safer and more enjoyable experience for people with food allergies and intolerance.

Can cooking destroy allergens? Does heating affect food allergens?

Unlike microbiological risks, heating does not necessarily destroy food allergens and may actually increase their potency.

More information can be found here:

How can I control allergens in my workplace kitchen / business?

Each business is very different and what works in one premise does not for another.  On our allergen awareness courses we discuss various methods of practical controls.  These include prevention of cross contamination using colour coding of containers, equipment etc, labelling of equipment and most importantly having knowledgeable and competent staff.

Why can people with a nut allergy eat pine nuts?

Some people with peanut allergy find they do not react to pine nuts.   This is because pine nuts are actually seeds and not nuts but it is always important to check with your doctor / medical advisor first.

Why are pine nuts not considered as nuts?

Pine nuts are actually the seeds of pine trees.

Why is kiwi not on the list of foods that need to be highlighted?

 This is an interesting point because on our allergen awareness training courses people often mention someone they know who has an allergic reaction to  kiwi fruit.  We are advised by the Foods Standards Agency that the current list is not exhaustive and that other foods may be added at a later date.  This is why it is so important for food businesses to keep themselves up to date.

Is tomato a known allergen?

Not currently and interestingly on our allergen awareness training courses people often mention someone particularly children they know who has an allergic reaction to tomato.  We are advised by the Foods Standards Agency that the current list is not exhaustive and that other foods may be added at a later date.  This is why it is so important for food businesses to keep themselves up to date.

I am allergic to garlic but it is not on the list, why?

Interestingly, on our allergen awareness training courses people often mention someone  they know who has an allergic reaction to garlic or onions.  We are advised by the Foods Standards Agency that the current list is not exhaustive and that other foods may be added at a later date.  This is why it is so important for food businesses to keep themselves up to date.

Do peanuts grow on trees?

NO peanuts are from the legume family and they grow underground.  You might find some growing in your garden if the local squirrel has decided to bury some peanuts he has sneaked from the bird table.

Are peanuts and peas really related?

Yes they are both legumes - vegetables that also include beans and alfafa. Peanuts grow under the ground.

Where do peanuts really grow?

You will find them under the ground.  The plant itself looks like a pea plant because they are both from the same family i.e. legume

What can coeliacs eat?

Coeliacs must not eat gluten which is a protein found in some cereals wheat, barley and rye.   The problem is that gluten can be found in many products so it is important to check labels carefully.  There are many foods that coeliacs can eat including corn, millet and rice but anyone preparing food for a coeliac must ensure no cross contamination can occur and always check with them first.


What flour can I use to replace my normal gluten flour?

There are many naturally gluten free flours available including corn, millet and rice but it is always important to check the labels first.  With the new labelling regulations it makes it much easier to see if a food has allergens such as gluten in it.  

What can people with a milk intolerance eat?

This will depend on the level of their milk intolerance as some people with cows milk intolerance can tolerate goats and sheeps milk.  Many people with milk intolerance opt for rice, soya, almond or oat milk.   It is important to remember when preparing food for anyone with an allergy or intolerance to ensure cross contamination cannot occur and double check the labels whilst preparing the food and with them before serving the food.

Why do people on a dairy exclusion diet often exclude eggs?

People often wrongly consider eggs to be dairy product but they are not.  Some assume it is because they are an animal byproduct as with milk, yoghurt, cheese etc.  However, a person could have an intolerance to many food products so always check with them first.

What is the think allergy card scheme by the foods standards agency all about? 

This is a very useful scheme where people with food allergies / intolerances can download preprinted cards highlighting that they have a reaction to certain foods.  They can then fill this out listing the food/s they need to avoid and hand it to the personnel taking their food order.

Do I need to train my staff on allergen awareness?

Knowledgeable staff will help prevent cross contamination / cross contact or a mistake being made plus your team will need to be made aware of the controls in place so you will need to demonstrate how you trained them on this.

What is anaphylaxis?

This is an acute allergic reaction to an antigen to which the body has become hypersensitive.  It can cause swelling of the lips, tongue, breathing problems leading to collapse and  loss of consciousness and sometimes death.  It is important if you think someone is suffering anaphylaxis you must get medical help and call 999. 

How many people die a year from an allergic reaction to food? 

Statistics show about 10 people die each year from food allergy although it is actually considered to be higher due to the fact that a food allergy can often bring on an asthma attack which sadly leads to death

Are there any special chemicals to remove allergens?

Studies have shown that common household cleaners are capable of removing traces of peanut protein from work surfaces if used properly.  Effective conventional cleaning to prevent cross contamination from bacteria is acceptable to prevent cross contact from allergens.  However, just wiping with a cloth is not an adequate method to remove allergens.

Would using a hand gel be sufficient to prevent cross contamination from allergens?

Hand gels do not remove debris and so proteins from milk and peanut for example will not be removed.  Best advice is to use running water and soap where available or wet wipes.

What should I do if someone has an anaphylactic shock in my food business?

The first reaction must always be to get medical help by dialling 999 but at the same time check to see if the person is carrying their epipen so that a shot of adrenalin can be administered

Can allergy be inherited?

Some people are more likely to develop an allergy because it runs in their family. If this is the case, you're said to be atopic or to have atopy. Boys are more likely to develop an inherited allergy than girls, as are babies who have a low birth weight.