Maria Said, national president of Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia, will address the need for greater food industry education about allergies at this month’s HAACCP food safety conference, Australia’s premier food safety event.
Said, who is one of the conference’s keynote speakers, will tell attendees that Australian food businesses risk losing customers if they don’t reconsider their approach to food allergies and the way they communicate with consumers. She’s calling for widespread changes affecting restaurants and cafes, as well as food manufacturers.
Said’s organisation hopes to work with local food manufacturers to create ingredient labels which provide reliable and consistent information for allergy sufferers. She will also highlight the importance of educating food service staff on procedures for preparing dishes for patrons with food allergies.
"At present, we feel that there is still a lot of education required to instruct businesses on how to limit consumer risk,” Said explained. “Risk cannot be totally removed but it can be reduced.”
Allergies on the Rise
Said believes such measures are necessary in light of sobering national allergy statistics. The number of newborns developing food allergies within their first year has jumped to around one in ten. Many food allergies can be outgrown, but six percent of Australian adults and two percent of adults live with one or more food allergies.
Cows’ milk and raw egg allergies are the most common amongst children, which often continue throughout the sufferer’s lifetime.
Food allergies have also proved difficult to manage, with local hospital admissions for severe allergies reactions in children four years and under increasing by 500 percent in the last decade. Admissions by patients with food allergies of all ages have doubled over that same period.
“These shocking statistics highlight the urgency for those within the food sector to consider how effectively they’re communicating with consumers,” she said.
Melbourne’s Docklands will host the 20th annual HAACCP food safety conference from August 27 to 29. Other topics on the agenda include Australia’s role in the global food marketplace and issues surrounding food exports. HACCP Homepage