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As a food business owner, it is your legal obligation to ensure all staff handle and serve food that is safe and suitable for your customers and to be aware of food allergies and intolerances.

Food allergens

A food allergen is an immune response to a particular food and it can be life-threatening.

The Food Standards Code requires that these allergens are declared and clearly indicated on all foods containing any allergens as ingredients.

These allergens are:

  • cereals containing gluten and their products – wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt, and their hybrid strains
  • crustacea and their products
  • egg and egg products
  • fish and fish products
  • milk and milk products
  • peanuts and peanut products
  • tree nuts and tree nut products (does not include coconut)
  • sesame seeds and sesame seed products
  • soybean and soybean products
  • added sulfites in concentrations of 10mg/kg or more.
  • lupin

It's good customer service to provide information about whether a menu item is halal or vegetarian, but this is not a legal requirement.

For more information, visit Food allergen awareness on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

Food intolerance

A food intolerance is a chemical reaction and, while not life threatening, it can be uncomfortable and debilitating.

Common items that cause an intolerance include:

  • lactose in cow’s milk
  • flavour enhancers, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • food additives
  • strawberries, citrus fruits and tomatoes
  • wine
  • histamine and amines.

How to identify food allergens in your products

Step 1: Obtain an accurate list of ingredients

Obtain an accurate list of all ingredients for each food product you produce (including compound ingredients and processing aids).

Step 2: Read the food allergen and intolerances fact sheets

Familiarise yourself with the Allergen and intolerances fact sheets for food businesses on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

Step 3: Assess ingredients

Assess each ingredient to determine whether it is an allergen by using the allergen fact sheets, as well as carefully checking labels and information from suppliers.

Step 4: List ingredients on menu items

Keep all details of ingredients for each menu item with your food allergen matrix (see Step 5) for easy reference.

Step 5: Develop and implement a food allergen matrix

Develop an allergen table or matrix that lists your foods and identifies any allergens in a format that makes it easy for staff to check and convey to the customer.

Once you have a matrix, you need to update it regularly when you add to, or change, your menu. Staff also need to be trained on how to interpret the information.

Step 6: Identify cross-contamination risks

Identify cross-contamination risks at your premises by assessing all food preparation and storage processes.

To ensure non-allergenic food is not mixed in with allergenic food, it's best to keep preparation areas and equipment separate, and to make sure the equipment is properly cleaned.

You can find fact sheets on food allergens and food safety on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

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