Allergies and Intolerances

Food allergy is a serious issue. What can you do?

Take customer requests about allergies seriously.

Everyone—from the manager through to the food preparation and food service staff—need to be aware of the risks food allergies pose, and the need to be clear on how to identify and manage them.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) sets standards for the labelling of products containing food allergens, gluten and sulphite preservatives. Any product containing allergens specified in the Standard must be either:

  • Declared on a label on packaged food or
  • Declared on, or in connection with, the display of food that is not required to be labelled or
  • Declared to the customer at the time of purchase if they ask.

For more information on allergen labelling requirements refer to the FSANZ website.

What is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy is an immune system response to a food protein that the body mistakenly believes is harmful.

A food allergy is not the same as food intolerance. A food intolerance is the inability to properly digest or fully process certain foods. The most common intolerances include lactose, gluten, yeast and sulphite.

Food allergy: immune system reaction to a food which can be potentially life threatening.

Allergen: a substance that a person’s immune system thinks is harmful to the body. Allergens include foods, insects, pets, dust mites, pollens and some medicines.

Food intolerance: does not involve the immune system. It is the inability to digest a food which can cause discomfort and distress but is not life threatening.

What Foods are Common Allergens?

The first ten foods listed below cause around 90% of food allergic reactions. They are:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (eg almonds, cashews)
  • Eggs
  • Cow’s milk (it’s common to also be allergic to milk from other animals)
  • Fish
  • Crustacean (shellfish, e.g. prawns, lobster)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Cereals containing gluten and their products, namely, wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt
  • Lupin.

Most fatal allergic reactions are triggered by peanuts, tree nuts or seafood, however, people have died as a result of cow’s milk, egg, sesame and other foods.


Want to Learn More about Allergens?

Visit the NSW Food Authorities website for more information.