The Food Standard Agency (FSA) has recently published a comprehensive a report which details the prevalence of allergens in adults.

Statistically, there is a vast number of people within the UK who are either allergic, intolerant or have celiac disease. Indeed around 6% of the adult population have been confirmed clinically and this includes both from childhood and those who have become allergic later in adult life.

Whilst food service and those involved in all aspects of food wholesale and retail have elevated their allergen management systems, improved their communications and gone beyond to cater for special dietary needs it is worth remembering that food hypersensitive customers do exist. They do purchase foods when they are out of home, they do attend schools, they do visit hospitals and they do reside in care homes.

A report of this nature is a stark reminder to all of us to ensure we operate to the very highest standards of food ingredient communication as there is a high likelihood we will need to deal with a food hypersensitive customers query on what allergens may be contained within our range of products.

With such a national prevalence in adults in the UK, who are food hypersensitive, the savvy food service operators who cater for free from foods and drinks and those with professional allergen standards can indeed see this as a market segment that is worth investing in and pursuing.

Another significant note of interest in this report is the prevalence of food hypersensitivity to foods outside of the TOP 14 allergens as well as allergy to birch pollen associated with certain fruits.

In food service we often experience customer requests about ingredients outside of the TOP 14 and the evidence is here. As a good practice all food and drink allergens, whatever they are, expressed by customers should be treated in the same fashion and good customer care and ingredient knowledge will endorse your business as a professional safe place to eat and drink.

We are still many years away from a cure for food allergy and in the meantime the mantra: The only cure is avoidance still exists in every mind of a food hypersensitive individual. And caterers who take the embarrassment and stress away from these customers with open and honest dialogue will prevail and not be subject to the devastating effects of a customer falling ill.

The full report can be accessed here Patterns and Prevalence of Adult Food Allergy | Food Standards Agency.

Julian Edwards, CEO of Allergen Accreditation