Blog posts of '2020' 'September'

9 Most Common Food Allergies

There are many different foods that can cause an allergic reaction, but 9 foods in particular are responsible for 90% of allergenic reactions and are classified by law as “major food allergens.”

It is important to be aware of what these 8 food allergens are and what dishes they appear in to avoid your customers suffering from a severe allergic reaction. We will be going over these 8 food allergens and where they appear and could be hidden, as well as the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

What is a Food Allergy

A food allergy is when your body’s immune system mistakes a certain food protein as a threat and tries to defend itself. Depending on the person, food allergies can range in severity, and even a small quantity can result in an allergic reaction.  

Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction

Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Usually symptoms include:

  •          Flushing and redness
  •          Hives
  •          Abdominal pain
  •          Nausea and vomiting
  •          Dizziness and fainting
  •          Difficulty swallowing or breathing

Severe cases can result in anaphylactic shock, where there is intense swelling of the throat and difficulty breathing and they may become unconscious. This can be fatal.

That is why it is crucial to understand food allergies and be aware of what the most common food allergens are and how to spot them.


Peanut allergies are the most common allergy and lasts a lifetime. Even a trace of peanuts can cause a severe allergic reaction.

It is important to check the label for peanuts since they may appear in the places you’d least expect them, such as pesto, baked goods, ethnic food, and vegetarian food. There are also other names for peanuts that may appear on the label, including the following:

  •          Ground nuts
  •          Beer nuts
  •          Monkey nuts
  •          Arachis oil
  •          Kernels
  •          Mandelonas

Note that many places that make tree nut products will use the same equipment with peanuts. Therefore, people with peanut allergies may choose to avoid tree nuts as well in order to avoid cross-contamination.

Tree nuts

Tree nuts allergies tend to be lifelong. They grow above ground on trees and include almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, and pistachios.

Tree nuts may be found in ethnic and vegetarian dishes, desserts, flavored coffees, alcoholic beverages, and oils or sauces.

Peanuts are not tree nuts, but people with tree nut allergies may also react to peanuts.


Milk allergies are one of the most common allergies in children, but most grow out of it, so it’s less common in adults. If a child is allergic to cow’s milk, they most likely are also allergic to other animal milks.

Alternative names for milk that may appear on an ingredients label include:

  •          Casein (hydrolysate)
  •          Caseinates
  •          Whey
  •          Lactoalbumin (phosphate)
  •          Lactose
  •          Lactulose
  •          Lactoferrin
  •          Lacto Globulin

Watch out for products where milk could be hiding, such as baked goods, salad dressings, peanut butter, mashed potatoes, and processed meat and fish products.


Egg allergies are caused by three proteins found in eggs. Similar to milk allergies, egg allergies are a common allergy for children, but not as common in adults.

There are many other names for eggs that may appear on an ingredients label. These include:

  •          Albumen
  •          Conalbumin
  •          Globulin
  •          Livetin
  •          Lysozyme
  •          Ovalbumin
  •          Ovomucin
  •          Ovotransferrin
  •          Silico-albuminate
  •          Vitellin

Some products that may contain eggs are mayonnaise, pasta, baked goods, sweets/confectionary (e.g. marshmallows), specialty coffee drinks, and glazes.


Finned fish are another lifelong allergy. People who are allergic to one type of fish may be allergic to others as well, so they tend to avoid fish all together. Finned fish include base, cod, eel, salmon, tuna, trout, and many more.

Be wary of fish oil used and fish sauces used in cooking, since this will also trigger an allergic reaction.


Food allergies to crustaceans & mollusks are very common. Shellfish, along with peanuts and tree nuts, are the most common causes of anaphylactic reactions.

Shellfish allergies are not related to fish allergies. So, if someone is allergic to shellfish, that does not mean that they also have a fish allergy.

Like with fish, shellfish can be hiding in dressings, sauces, and broth, so read the ingredient lists closely.


Wheat is the most commonly used grain in the United States. Most children outgrow their wheat allergy by the age of 3, but there are still some adults who are allergic to wheat.

There are many other grains that people with wheat allergies can consume. Substitutes include rice, rice flour, potato flour, buckwheat, and quinoa.


Soybeans are part of the legume family and in the United States are commonly used to boost protein in processed foods. Soybean allergies are very common in children, but most children will outgrow soy allergies by the age of 10.

Soy appears in sauces, cooking oil, protein substitutes, broths, and cereals.


In January 2023, the FDA added Sesame as the 9th major allergen. 1.6 million people have an allergy to sesame and this is why you need to be aware of this important update.

An allergy to sesame can cause severe reactions including anaphylaxis. Some allergenic sufferers have cross-reactivity between nuts and seeds so that those with allergies to nuts may also react to sesame.

Occasionally allergic reactions to other seeds such as poppy seeds can occur. 

Get more information on the 9 most common food allergens as well as how to spot and treat an allergic reaction by taking an allergy awareness course.

The Big 6 Foodborne Illnesses

The CDC reports that researchers have identified over 250 foodborne diseases. It is impossible to know about all of these sicknesses, but you should know about the 6 most common foodborne illnesses, known as the “Big 6”—Salmonella, Salmonella typhi (Typhoid), Shigella, E. coli, Norovirus, and Hepatitis A. Without proper food safety policies and procedures, foodborne pathogens can easily make their way into the food you are serving and infect your customers.

You can get more in-depth information about each of these foodborne pathogens in our pdf guide. But here are the basics of what you need to know in order to prevent your customers and staff.



Carried naturally by farm animals, it affects raw food from animal origins such as meats, eggs, and milk. It also affects vegetables that have come into contact with animal feces. It can survive freezer temperatures, but can be killed off at temperatures above 131°F.


  •          Fever
  •          Abdominal pain
  •          Diarrhea
  •          Vomiting


  •          Cook all meat, poultry, and eggs to the minimum internal temperatures
  •          Use correct thawing techniques
  •          Wash raw fruits and vegetables
  •          Store TCS foods separately from ready-to-eat foods
  •          Sanitize all surfaces to prevent cross-contamination


Salmonella typhi (Typhoid)

Typhoid is the most severe foodborne illness and is a common killer where there is poor sanitation. It affects water and food contaminated by sewage. It cannot survive being cooked or boiled but can survive refrigerator or freezer temperatures.

With treatment, the mortality rate is 1-2%, but without treatment, death occurs every 1 in 3 instances.


  •          Fever and high temperature
  •          Abdominal pain
  •          Diarrhea
  •          Vomiting
  •          Mental confusion
  •          Pink spots on skin


  •          Ensuring water is safe with no risk of contamination
  •          Effective sewage disposal
  •          High standards of personal hygiene
  •          Cook food to minimum internal temperature
  •          Effective cleaning and sanitation procedures to prevent cross-contamination
  •          Strict hand washing policies



Shigella occurs when food workers who are carriers of the bacteria fail to wash their hands after using the restroom. It can also be spread through flies touching the food.


  •          Abdominal pain
  •          Diarrhea
  •          Bloody Stool
  •          Fever


  •          Strict handwashing policy
  •          Rapidly cool foods to 41°F or below
  •          Cook food to minimum internal temperature
  •          Eliminate flies from your establishment


E. coli

Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but some can cause food poisoning. It can infect humans and cattle and it only takes a small number of these bacteria to make someone sick. It is not dangerous to most healthy people, however, can be fatal for groups such as children, elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.

E. Coli can survive and multiply in refrigerators running as low as 36°F and can survive on stainless steel surfaces for 60 days if not sanitized properly. Cooking above 122°F starts to slow down the growth.


  •          Diarrhea
  •          Vomiting
  •          Fever
  •          Abdominal pain


  •          Use approved suppliers
  •          Separate storage and work areas for raw and high-risk foods
  •          Cooking food to its minimum internal temperature
  •          Temperature control of chilled ready-to-eat foods
  •          Good personal hygiene
  •          Effective cleaning and sanitation practices



Norovirus is the most common type of viral gastroenteritis in the US, with its short-lived, aggressive diarrhea and projectile vomiting. It is also very contagious.

Norovirus can come from ready-to-eat foods, contaminated water, and raw shellfish from contaminated water. Infected food handlers can spread the virus while they are preparing food. It is commonly spread person-to-person by fecal-oral, oral-oral, and by poor personal hygiene, poor handwashing and bare hand contact.


  •          Nausea
  •          Projectile vomiting
  •          Diarrhea
  •          Abdominal pain
  •          Moderate fever-like symptoms


  •          Strict hand washing policies
  •          Strict personal hygiene standards
  •          Avoid bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods
  •          Effective cleaning and sanitation


Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a viral liver infection that is widespread around the world, especially in areas with poor sanitation. It is commonly spread person-to-person by the fecal-oral route, poor handwashing and bare hand contact. Infected people are highly contagious but may not show signs for weeks. Cooking will NOT destroy this virus.


  •          Fever
  •          Nausea
  •          Abdominal Pain
  •          Jaundice


  •          Exclude employees who have been diagnosed with Hepatitis A
  •          Strict handwashing policies
  •          Strict personal hygiene standards
  •          Avoid bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods
  •          Effective cleaning and sanitation


Prevent Foodborne Illness

It is important that your staff is food safety trained so are aware of the ways pathogens can spread through food and how to prevent foodborne illnesses.


Always Food Safe offers Food Handlers training to teach you and your staff more about the Big 6 foodborne illnesses and how to prevent the spread of pathogens in your establishment.