Food safety can basically be separated into two areas that must be controlled; food poisoning and food allergens.
According to Anaphylaxis Australia, around two percent of all Australian have a food allergy. In some of these people, the allergy can be so severe that it can cause anaphylaxis, which is a complete closing of the wind pipe and death can result with three to four minutes. It is particularly an issue with children, but can persist into adulthood.
Due to this the Australian and New Zealand Food Standards Code has a requirement for all food businesses that there be no unintentional allergens in any food. The recognised food allergens in Australia and New Zealand are; dairy, eggs, tree nuts peanuts, soy, seeds, gluten fish and shellfish. An unintentional food allergen is one of these that is not meant to be in the food.
Different countries recognise different food allergens, depending upon the foods and cases in the specific country.
A recent report released by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) has shown that there is an increase in food allergies in Europe compared to previous years, with more than 17 milion people with a food allergy. According to EAACI, there has been a seven times increase in the number of food allergy related hospitalisations since 2002.
Although labelling is a key to food allergen, it is essential that everything be done within the business to prevent allergen cross contamination. The Australian Food and Grocery Council has a brilliant website, which provides some great methods for food businesses to use for allergen control, as well as a very useful allergen labelling system called VITAL.