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Fighting food allergies

Queensland Health is reminding the food industry that cross-contamination can seriously affect people with food allergies.

Executive Director of Health Protection, Sophie Dwyer said preparing foods separately and keeping customers informed of what ingredients their meals contained went a long way toward avoiding allergic reactions.

"Cross-contamination is a serious concern for people with food allergies," Ms Dwyer said.

"An example could be where deep fried foods such as crumbed fish and chips are fried in the same oil.

"People with allergies are best to avoid eating food from a self-service area or buffet because it’s easy for small amounts of allergenic ingredients to get into food by accident.

"Businesses are required to provide separate utensils for different dishes to reduce the risk of cross-contamination, but in a self-serve buffet the same utensils may have been used to serve different dishes, so even if it looks safe, you can’t be sure."

Australia’s food labelling laws state that the nine most common allergens – peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, sesame, soy and gluten containing cereals – must be declared on packaging.

"People with allergies need to carefully assess food labels and make specific requests when eating out," Ms Dwyer said.

"Food businesses must be able to provide details of products and ingredients to customers on request.  If there is no label on a food and you can’t find out what’s in it, it is safer not to eat it.

"Even if a product is labelled as being free from a particular allergen, people with food allergies should still read the ingredient list."

Queensland Health statistics show that between July and December 2014, there were 312 hospital admissions in Queensland for anaphylactic shock due to adverse food reaction. Of these, 55 were children aged from birth to 4 years.

Further information see Allergies

Last updated: 22 May 2015