Food labelling laws state that food companies must always declare the presence of 14 major allergens when they appear in pre-packed food, and these must be highlighted in the ingredients list (for example, in bold type). A key message is that people with food allergies must read the ingredient list every time they buy a product, even if they have bought it before. Recipes sometimes change.
Warning labels stating that a product “may contain” a particular allergen, such as nuts, are infuriating because they limit choice and make shopping complicated, but often these warnings are there for a reason because of the risks of cross-contamination during the production chain. Our advice to people is clear: Don’t ignore these warnings. You may eat a product numerous times without having a reaction but the next time you may not be so lucky. Cross-contamination can be intermittent.
In the Home
Preparing food for someone with a severe food allergy can be challenging, but managing the risk is a matter of common sense. Simple meals, using fresh meat and vegetables, avoids many of the pitfalls that sometimes arise with packaged foods.
As a household you may decide to give up the offending food, banning it from entering the home. This will guard against mistakes being made and avoid cross-contamination.
If you choose not to ban the allergenic food, be scrupulous about keeping risky foods apart from the safe ones. Wash your hands, cutlery and utensils to prevent cross-contamination. Use plenty of soapy water. To be on the safe side, use separate crockery, cutlery and chopping boards for different foods. Avoid splatters and spillages by covering food up.