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Food Allergy Awareness of Caterers in the Food Industry

Food Allergy Awareness of Caterers in the Food Industry

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Lynsey Mitchell. Originally submitted for BSc Hons Environmental Health with DIS at University of Ulster, with lecturer Marie Vaganay in the category of Life Sciences
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Lynsey Mitchell. Originally submitted for BSc Hons Environmental Health with DIS at University of Ulster, with lecturer Marie Vaganay in the category of Life Sciences

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Food AllergyAwareness of Caterersin the Food Industry
The purpose of this research paper was to investigate how aware caterers inthe food industry are, in relation to food allergies. A food allergy is caused bya reaction of the immune system to an allergen (Emerton, 2002). A literature review was carried out prior to beginning the research to consider what investigatory work had already been carried out on this topic and wherethe gaps were. This helped to define the angle to take and area to look atwhen carrying out the research for this paper. A questionnaire was created and distributed, in three locations, in order toachieve the aims of the study. There were a total of thirty questionnairesdistributed, which we considered a limiting factor as it is only a small sample.The results showed that, in general, the caterers’ awareness of food allergiesis poor, hence confirming previous information in literature studied. Also, theyhad very little, or no, training on the subject and they expressed the need for more training, highlighting a reason for poor awareness. Further trainingwould benefit caterers as it was found that there is a significant correlationbetween training and awareness.
Food allergy
 Allergic reactions
Literature Review
Food allergy is an immunology mediated reaction to food, or an ingredient inthe food, that usually occurs immediately after exposure to that particular food, known as an allergen (Emerton, V., 2002). Another source describes afood allergy as “a form of specific food intolerance that causes reproducibleand includes an abnormal reaction by the immune system” (Barasi, M., 2003).There are many foods that people may be allergic to, but the main one arepeanuts, nuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, soya, glutten, sesame seeds, celeryand mustard (FSA leaflet). Even the smallest trace of the allergen to which theperson is allergic can trigger a possibly fatal reaction (Coleraine B.C., 2008).Research has shown that food allergies are becoming an increasing problemin the UK and Ireland. According to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland;approximately 5% of children and 3% of adults suffer from food allergies andin the UK; 5-8% of children and 1-2% of adults have a food allergy (ColeraineB.C., 2008). The rising numbers of people in the UK with food allergies is areal concern. A House of Lords select committee, set up to examine allergy,reported last year; “Allergy in the UK has now reached epidemic proportions.”(www.childrenfirst.nhs.uk). Research carried out by Caroline Hadley, 2006,has suggested that not only is the number of people with food allergies rising,the number of foods which they are allergic to is increasing also.The main problem regarding food allergies is eating out in take-aways,restaurants or other food catering establishments, according to variousresearch articles. This is likely because of the fact that eating out in pubs andrestaurants is more common nowadays (Pratten, J. and Towers, N., 2004).Ian Leitch found that in the UK over 75% of anaphylactic reactions, to a foodallergen, occurred after eating a meal at a catering establishment. This wasbacked up by research carried out on food allergy awareness of caterers inWales, by Denise Worsfold, who states that ¾ of deaths from allergicreactions were as a result of food consumed in or prepared by foodestablishments, such as restaurants and cafes (cited from IFST, 2005). HazelGowland also agrees with this statement as she wrote in her article entitled‘food allergen avoidance – a patient’s viewpoint’, “Dr. Richard Pumphrey’srecent research indicates that 76% of food allergy deaths followed theconsumption of food away from the home.” The exact same statement wasincluded in the ‘Food Standards and Allergy Awareness Seminar’ carried outby the Environmental Health Department in Coleraine Borough Council, 2008.Many surveys and pieces of research have been carried out to find out why somany cases of allergic reactions occur in catering establishments, with themost common reason being the lack of knowledge of the staff, mainly due tothe fact that there is no specific training on food allergies available, nor isthere a requirement for catering staff to be trained in the area. A survey wascarried out, in a research article by Towers and Prattten and results showedthat caterers had a little knowledge of the dietary allergies that existed, but theextent and dangers of them wasn’t truly appreciated. In another article by thesame two authors, they stated that even trained chef’s were unlikely to haveany training on food allergies, as professional exams on hospitality andcatering do not contain information on food allergies. Also, basic hygiene

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