Food Allergies in Foodservice Rotations

While being in my Institutional Food Service, Production, and Management rotation this summer, a common concern from management has come to my attention. And this concern would be…  Food Allergies!

A food allergy is the body’s immune system reaction to certain foods. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include itching or swelling in or around the mouth, face, and scalp; tightening in the throat; wheezing or shortness of breath; hives; abdominal cramps, vomiting, diarrhea; loss of consciousness; and even death.

Food allergies are a growing public health concern. As many as 15 million people in the U.S. have food allergies. An estimated 9 million, or 4%, of adults have food allergies. Nearly 6 million, or 8%, of children have food allergies with young children affected the most. Although children allergies to milk, egg, wheat, and soy generally resolve in childhood, they appear to be resolving more slowly than in previous decades, with many children still allergic beyond age 5 years. Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, or shellfish are generally lifelong allergies.

The top food allergens are categorized into eight food groups. These eight food groups account for 90% of all food-allergic reactions. They include: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. The estimated prevalence among the American population is:

          Milk and eggs: based on data within and obtained outside the United States, this rate is likely to be 1-2% for young children and 0.2-0.4% in the general population.

          Peanut: 0.6-1.3%

          Tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans): 0.4%-0.6%

          Fish: 0.4%

          Crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp): 1.2%

          All seafood: 0.6% in children and 2.8% in adults

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that food allergies result in more than 300,000 ambulatory-care visits a year among children under the age of 18 years. From 2004 to 2006, there were approximately 9,500 hospital discharges per year with a diagnosis related to food allergy among children under age 18 years. Even small amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction. Most allergic reactions to foods occurred to foods that were thought to be safe. Allergic reactions can be attributed to a form of mislabeling or cross-contact during food preparation. Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting. Every 3 minutes a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department. This is approximately 200,000 emergency department visits per year, and every 6 minutes the reaction is one of anaphylaxis. Teenagers and young adults with food allergies are at the highest risk of fatal food-induced anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis may recur after initially subsisting and experts recommend an observation period of about 4 hours to monitor that the reaction has been resolved. Individuals with food allergies who also have asthma may be at an increased risk for severe or fatal food allergic reactions. Children with food allergy are 3-4 times more likely to have other related conditions such as asthma and other allergies, compared without food allergies. It is possible to have anaphylaxis without any skin symptoms (no rash or hives). Failure to promptly (i.e., within minutes) treat food anaphylaxis with epinephrine is a risk factor for fatalities.

Chemical contamination can occur when high-acid foods are prepared or stored in metal-lined containers. Poisoning may result if brass or copper, galvanized, or gray enamelware containers are used. Fruit juices should never be stored in gray enamelware with lead glaze or tin milk cans. Cases of poisoning have been recorded that have been attributed to use of improper metal utensils. Sauerkraut, tomatoes, fruit gelatins, lemonade, and fruit punches have been implicated in metal poisonings.

Toxin metals also have been implicated in food poisoning cases. Copper may become poisonous when it is in prolonged contact with acid foods or carbonated beverages. The vending industry voluntarily discontinued all point-of-sale carbonation systems that do not completely guard against the possibility of backflow into copper water lines. Also, food such as meat placed directly on cadmium-plated refrigerator shelves may be rendered poisonous.

Mayo Clinic

NIH

FARE

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Preventing Foodborne Illnesses this Summer

Preventing Foodborne Illnesses this Summer

With the beginning of summer, many people think they can just keep their picnic food safe from bacteria by storing it in the refrigerator. But, there is one bacteria- that is exempt from that rule…

Unlike most food bacteria, Listeria can grow in cool temperatures. Refrigerating food already contaminated with these bacteria could allow the germs to multiply and spread, according to the USDA.

The bacteria can cause serious illness known as listeriosis, which is especially dangerous for children, older people, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems. Foods in which Listeria has been found include deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood and store-prepared salads. The FDA advises those at greater risk for developing listeriosis to reheat these ready-to-eat foods until they are steaming hot. They should also avoid unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses.

Listeriosis has also been linked to contaminated cantaloupes. The FDA recommended washing all fruits and vegetables under running water immediately before eating, cutting or cooking them. Firm produce, in particular, should be scrubbed with a produce brush. Examples like this, is specifically important in the summer when fruits are in season.

Other ways to prevent Listeria infection include:

          Set your refrigerator temperature to 40 degrees F or lower to slow the growth of Listeria. Use a refrigerator and freezer thermometer to make sure temperatures are appropriately cold.

          Wrap or cover food before placing it in the refrigerator. Be sure no containers or covers are leaking juices on other foods.

          Do not allow cooked or ready-to-eat (RTE) foods to sit in the refrigerator. Eat these foods right away so Listeria doesn’t have the opportunity to grow. If you have leftovers in your refrigerator, it’s best to throw them out after 3 days, just to be sure. Because remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

          Clean up refrigerator spills immediately. The FDA notes leaks or spills from hot dog packages, raw meat or poultry are mostly of concern. The agency advised cleaning these spills with paper towels to avoid spreading germs to a cloth towel.

          Routinely disinfect the refrigerator. Cleaning the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator with warm water and soap. Surface cleaners can also be used monthly.

          Sanitize kitchen surfaces where food is prepared with soap and water and surface cleaner.

          Wash cutting boards after every use. Nonporous acrylic, plastic, or glass boards can be sanitized in the dishwasher.

          Wash dish cloths, towels and cloth grocery bags in the hot cycle of the washing machine.

          Before and after handling food, wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds! And if you can’t remember how long- just sing the “Happy Birthday” song. This is a trick we educate children on for food safety and hand washing!

Center for Disease Control and Prevention 

Listeria_Colorado State University

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CDC statistics from 2011

CDC statistics from 2011

listeria