8 Most Common Food Allergies

There are many different foods that can cause an allergic reaction, but 8 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.


Get more information on the 8 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


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.

How To Prevent Workplace Violence Associated With COVID-19

With coronavirus prevention policies such as masks, social distancing, and restrictions on how many people can be in your restaurant at one time, workers may be threatened or assaulted while trying to enforce these policies.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released guidelines on how to handle violent workplace situations that may arise due to COVID-19 restrictions. You can implement these strategies in your own restaurant to protect your employees and customers and create a safer space for everyone.

Offer Customers Options That Minimize Contact

Limit in-person contact by offering services such as curbside pickup and delivery. The less in-person contact there is, the less likely a violent situation could occur.

Advertise Social Distancing Policies

Whether it’s hanging up signs or advertising on your website, let customers know what COVID-19 policies you have in place, so customers are aware and know what to expect.

Create a Plan to Respond to Workplace Violence

Train your employees on how to respond to threats or violence and have a plan in place for how to assess and respond to violence and threats. Learn verbal and non-verbal cues that warn of a possible violent situation, including:

  • speaking loudly
  • swearing
  • clenched fists
  • heavy breathing
  • fixed stare
  • pacing

Also teach employees how to respond to violent situations. Lay out a plan for them to follow when a violent or threatening situation arises. Some things you can implement in your plan include:

  • Not arguing with the customer
  • Avoiding threatening gestures i.e. finger pointing
  • Remaining aware and stand by coworkers experiencing a violent situation
  • Not forcing customers who are upset or violent to follow coronavirus prevention policies
  • Going to a safe area (preferably with a locked door and exits), if need be
  • Reporting threats or acts of violence to a supervisor or manager

For more information, view the CDC’s guidelines.

How To Get Your Food Manager Certification Online

Having a food manager certification allows you to lead your team and make sure that proper food safety measures are being taken in order to protect customers as well as your fellow coworkers.

And it is possible to earn this certification entirely online!

Always Food Safe offers online, video-based food manager courses, as well as remotely proctored online exams, so you can complete your food manager certification from the comfort of your own home.

Let’s walk through the steps to help you complete your food protection manager certification online.

Why You Should Get Your Food Manager Certification Online

Online courses allow you to complete your food manager training on your own time and at your own pace, while remotely proctored exams take away the stress of testing centers and provides greater flexibility on when and where you take it.

How It Works: Become Certified in 5 Easy Steps

1.      Choose the Certification Package You Need

Select your state and county to find the food manager training package specifically tailored to your needs and location. Purchase the course or exam separately or select a course and exam bundle. Which one you need will depend on where you are from and your experience level. Some states require food manager training courses, so be sure to check with your local health department.

2.      Set Up Your Account Online

To access your food protection manager training, set up your account with your training provider.

3.      Complete Your Course Online If You Need the Course

If you are taking the course, access it online and complete the training videos at your own pace. Otherwise, just book your exam time.

4.      Book Your Exam Time

You can schedule an exam time at a traditional testing center, or you also have the option to take the exam online through an online testing provider, such as ProctorU. This gives you more options of when you can take the exam so you can find a time that best fits your schedule.

5.      Take and Pass Your Exam to Receive Your Food Manager Certificate

Once you have completed the exam and passed, you can download and print out your food manager certificate at any time. If you didn’t pass on your first attempt, you will have limited retakes so you can try again and pass.

Always Food Safe offers online training for food managers in a number of states. Visit our food manager page and follow the steps above to get started.

Thomas Draudt PBS Special Airs Throughout August 2020

Filmmaker Thomas Draudt is an Emmy Award-Winning producer and an Emmy Nominated Director, and who also directed our Food Manager training videos! Partnering with Rhode Island PBS, he has created his first PBS special, “Second Wind: The Tale of a Sailor,” which originally premiering in August 2019 and will be airing again on various PBS stations in August 2020.

The special documents the career of nautical photographer and sailor Onne van der Wal. His photography career has spanned over 30 years, documenting his adventures sailing around the globe and eventually refurbishing a sailboat of his own.

Check the schedule to see when “Second Wind: The Tale of a Sailor” will be airing on your local PBS station.

And here is a preview of our Food Manager training that Draudt directed.

Why It’s So Important for Your Staff to Understand Food Allergies

Keeping your staff trained about food safety is crucial to a well-run restaurant, but one aspect of food safety that is just as important are allergens.

Food allergies are very common. Approximately 15 million Americans have some sort of food allergy. Reactions to allergens can range from mild to severe, with over 150 people dying each year.

Depending on where you are, allergen training may not be required, but it is still oh-so-important. If your staff isn’t properly educated on allergens, it risks a customer having a life-threatening allergic reaction and needing medical attention.

Being knowledgeable about allergens helps to minimize the risk of exposure to customers as well as the risk of litigation against your restaurant or your staff. It is your responsibility to prevent these situations from happening.

So, protect your customers and your business by having your staff allergen trained. Learn more about our Allergen Awareness Training to get started.

Diversity and the Restaurant Industry

The restaurant industry is one of the most diverse workforces in the United States, but there are still ways we can improve, especially when it comes to management positions.

Having a diverse group of employees with different genders, ethnicities, ages, and experience can have a wide range of benefits to your company. Learn more about these benefits, as well as how to increase diversity in your company.

Diversity Breakdown

Benefits of Diversity

More Productive Workforce

Studies have shown that having a more diverse workforce can lead to greater productivity and creativity. Different backgrounds mean there are more viewpoints and ideas, leading to better and more creative solutions.

Represent a Wider Customer Base

Having a team of employees from different backgrounds will make your restaurant more comfortable to a wider range of customers. Diversity can also have benefits if some of your employees are bilingual and can communicate more customers.

Increasing Diversity

It’s not just about hiring a more diverse workforce; it’s about changing or creating systems and policies for a more inclusive environment.

Assess your Organization

Think about who currently works at your company, as well as your customer base. Does the makeup of your company match the diversity in your community?

Don’t forget to look at management. Having diverse management helps create an inclusive environment for everyone at your restaurant.

Mentorship and Networking Programs

Mentorship and networking have been proven to increase female and minority representation in management positions. Professionals can help guide people through the industry and give them knowledge and connections.

There are a number of different mentoring and networking programs that are specific to the restaurant industry, so try and find some in your area. Or, you can have mentors within your company.

Benefits of Remote Proctoring

As things are starting to move online, Always Food Safe offers remote proctoring for our Food Manager Certification exam! Many tests are going virtual to help with social distancing, but there are many other benefits to online exams as opposed to in-person. Read more about the benefits to both the company and the test takers.

Benefits to Test Takers

More Flexibility

Instead of having to take time away from work to travel to your nearest test center, you can complete your training and exam from home.

This will save you time and money!

No Travel

Driving to a test center where you will have to travel for miles, sit in traffic, spend money on gas, and try and find parking is not conducive to a good test experience. Go with the easier option and take your exam at home.

Less Stress

Even before COVID exam centers were stressful places, but now with social distancing, having to wear a mask and other regulations now makes sitting in the exam room almost as stressful as taking the exam itself. Why create all that stress for yourself, when you could instead stay somewhere you are comfortable?

Benefits to Companies

Less to Organize

You have a million and one things to do running a restaurant. Taking an hour out of your day to proctor an exam could be time spent elsewhere.  Make things easier for yourself and just use remote proctoring.

Keep Staff Busy

With many restaurants running at 50% capacity there can either be downtime for staff, or they are still on furlough. Use this time to get staff trained and ready for when the country opens up fully and things get busy again.

It's Easy

With ALL of the Certification being completed online, you don’t have to worry about anything. Staff will take the training and exam, and then their certificate will reside in your online account area.

To find out more information please call 844.312.2011 or email for more information on this offering.

Why Food Safety Training is Important to your Restaurant's Reopening Plan

The COVID-19 epidemic has drastically changed the way we live, and now we begin the new normal. With businesses starting to open up again, it’s time to think about how you can safely reopen your restaurant.

The CDC reported that coronavirus cannot be transmitted through food or food packaging, but that doesn’t mean food safety is any less important. If anything, it is even more vital now.

As we’ve said before, “a clean business is a safe business.” Keeping your business clean and following food safety procedures can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to your customers and employees, and keeping your employees educated with food safety training will make reopening go smoothly as well as help slow the spread.

Here are a couple of reasons why you should be considering food safety when creating your restaurant’s reopening plan.

It's Required

Proper food safety training is required by law. Be aware of your state and local requirements as you prepare to reopen and communicate with your employees, providing them with any PPE necessary.

Social Distancing Does Not Replace Good Hygiene

Social distancing is an important part of slowing the spread of coronavirus. That doesn’t mean that personal hygiene is any less important.

Even as you are social distancing, make sure employees are following proper food safety procedures. Washing your hands and sanitizing surfaces more frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing, will help ensure that the virus is not lingering on any surfaces.

Increase Customer and Employee Confidence

Lastly, properly educating you and your employees about food safety, then applying what you’ve learned, will help increase customer and employee confidence.

Showing customers and employees that you are taking their health and safety into account lets them know you care about them. A clean restaurant will make customers feel more comfortable, and in turn will encourage them to come back.

Always Food Safe offer customers a “badge” that they can show on their social media channels and in their restaurants to make customers aware that they take food safety seriously.

Click Here for more information.

Train you and your employees about Food Safety during COVID-19 with our quick 15-minute video.

Training & Protecting Your Staff is a Legal Requirement

With the news that 5 McDonalds employees in Chicago are filing a lawsuit alleging the chain did not protect them against COVID-19, it brings into the focus the importance of training your staff and following the correct safety procedures in order to protect them.

Here is how to keep you and your staff properly trained and informed on the latest in restaurant and food safety, and to protect your restaurant from potential legal issues.

1.      Train Your Staff. It’s the Law!

As a business, you have a legal requirement to train your staff.

However, training is about more than filling a legal requirement. Training protects both your workers and your customers. It gives your staff the knowledge they need to stay safe while on the job, as well as how to safely prepare food in a way that prevents customers from having a foodborne illness or allergic reaction.

With food safety and other types of training, the benefits far outweigh the costs, and restaurants who take training seriously are often the most profitable.

Find out more about Food Handler, Allergen Awareness & Food Manager Training.

2.      Document It

Training your staff is one thing. Even though training is very important, it is vital that you can prove to people that training has taken place from a legal perspective.

If a health inspector walks into the building, they will want to see all training and certifications easily and not want to spend time searching for the documentation themselves.

Consider implementing an online management system to store all training details and certificates in one, easy to use area, to save you time and keep you organized.

3.      Make it Part of Your Culture

Although legally your staff only need to be certified every 3 or 5 years, depending on the certification, that is nowhere near enough to run a safe, successful organization.

With COVID-19 sweeping the country, it has highlighted more than ever that continuous training is essential to keep both staff and customers safe. It’s a good idea to train staff whenever new safety information and regulations come about, such as COVID-19 restaurant safety. A great place for these sorts of updates is always the FDA website.

At Always Food Safe, we are constantly creating new content to keep you up to date with the latest trends in food safety.