Reaction to food allergens results in 200,000 emergency room visits and as many as 200 deaths each year. One in every 25 customers served in a day has a food allergy or is shopping for someone with an allergy. And the number of consumers affected by food allergens is increasing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a 50 percent increase in food allergies among children between 1997 and 2011. For the estimated 15 million Americans (including one in every 13 children) with food allergies, a single bite of food could trigger a reaction ranging from a mild response like an itchy mouth, to anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially deadly reaction that requires immediate medical assistance. Taking proper steps to educate service associates on safe food-handling and storage, as well as ingredients found in the products they sell, can help dramatically reduce the chances of allergic reactions among shoppers.
This year, the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA) is conducting its second annual, year-long food safety campaign called Safe Food Matters! Focus on Allergens. Its goal is to build awareness of safe-food practices and serve as an industry resource for food retailers, manufacturers and their employees. The Focus on Allergens initiative will spotlight best practices to reduce the likelihood of allergic reactions from direct exposure and cross-contact in store-level fresh perimeter departments. It also will illustrate the importance of transparency in properly labeling food for both consumers with food allergies and the growing number of consumers who now routinely request products free from certain ingredients.
“Food allergies are a daily concern for some customers that shop retail fresh perimeter departments,” said Mary Kay O’Connor, VP of education at IDDBA. “The consumption of a specific food protein that some people are allergic to can quickly set off a reaction that turns a customer’s shopping trip into a medical situation.
“A key component of minimizing the likelihood of allergic reactions among our shoppers is awareness and education, which is the cornerstone of this year’s Safe Food Matters! Focus on Allergens campaign,” she added. “We’re providing our members and the industries we serve with training tools and resources to assist management and retail associates in properly identifying common allergens in the products they serve and sell, as well as ways to prevent direct exposure and cross-contact.”
Current and planned programs around the Safe Food Matters! Focus on Allergens campaign include:
• A new online food allergen awareness training course at training.iddba.org.
• IDDBA allergen job guides.
• A new IDDBA trustability research report prepared by Phil Lempert, SupermarketGuru.
• Up to $2,000 in food-safety certification reimbursement for food retailers.
• Topical educational sessions at IDDBA’s Dairy-Deli-Bake Show & Sell Workshops June 5-7 in Houston, Texas.
• Online training tools, white papers, and other resources.