Online training for food allergies

National Allergy Strategy launches potentially life-saving online training for food service industry

Around one in 20 children (0-5 years), and one in 50 adults are affected by food allergy

Food-induced anaphylaxis has doubled in the last 10 years

Hospital admissions for food-induced anaphylaxis have increased five-fold over the last 20 years

Fatalities from food-induced anaphylaxis increase by around 10% each year.

In response to an alarming rise in episodes of anaphylaxis, hospital admissions and fatalities due to food allergies in Australia, a groundbreaking online food allergy training and education program for those working within the food services industry has been launched.

The National Allergy Strategy is a partnership between the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) and Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA).

“Food allergy remains a growing problem in Australia, with rates on the rise, and episodes of life threatening anaphylaxis increasing,” says Associate Professor Richard Loh, co-chair of the National Allergy Strategy.

“While people with food allergy are usually successful in avoiding their allergens in their own environment, research tells us that most episodes of fatal anaphylaxis occur outside of the home.”

The strategy is targeted at improving limited understanding of how to manage food allergies within the food service industry. The free online training program specifically for people working within the industry aims to increase awareness and help implement manageable safe guards potentially saving lives.

The All about Allergens training program is available via a website (www.foodallergytraining.org.au) and provides access to training that is fast, simple and free. The program also provides comprehensive need-to-know information relevant to those in the food service industry.

Training modules include information about responding to customers who disclose a food allergy, managing orders for those with food allergy, minimising the risk of cross-contamination, and it also highlights examples of good service for customers with food allergy. The course also educates users on the symptoms of a food allergic reaction, and explains what to do if a customer experiences anaphylaxis (the most severe form of allergic reaction).

First hand awareness

Alex Herbert, a well known Sydney chef and food consultant, has experience on both sides of the table when it comes to allergies to food. Since becoming the mother of a child with a severe egg and peanut allergy, Alex has developed a new found appreciation of the importance of maintaining stringent food handling procedures within a commercial kitchen.

“For people with a severe allergy, it can take only the smallest amount of their allergen to trigger a severe allergic reaction. For example, using tongs to toss an egg based pasta dish and then using the same tongs to handle their egg free meal is enough to send them to hospital,” explains Alex.

Alex understands the importance of how to manage customers’ life threatening allergies with staff training. “This new food allergy training website for food service staff could literally save lives. It’s easy to understand, it only takes about 1-1.5 hours to complete, and – most importantly as an employer – it’s free.”

In an industry where high staff turnover is common, and many workers are employed on a casual basis, providing time-intensive and costly training for all staff is simply not an option. Users receive a certificate upon completion that can then become a part of their portfolio, alongside other certifications such as food handling and hygiene, and Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA).

The strategy also aims to highlight the responsibility of the consumer to declare their food allergy when eating out. To help consumers to understand their role in managing their food allergy and to support them and their carers in managing their food allergy in many different situations, a consumer education website has also been developed (www.foodallergyeducation.org.au)

For further information go to: www.allergyfacts.org.au