The skills and knowledge required to carry out food allergen avoidance are becoming increasingly sophisticated. It is not enough to know the names of a handful of dishes which contain a known allergen as an ingredient. Many lifestyles now depend on food prepared away from the home. New product development has introduced a wide range of ingredients and dishes which are labour saving, exciting and innovative. Product traceability now depends on advanced technological support as it struggles to keep up with foods manufactured, prepared and served in ever more complex circumstances. Consumers are now faced with ‘a jungle of choices’. However, those individuals who need to avoid a known allergen, particularly in trace quantities, often find that the food choice deemed suitable is poor, and the information available inadequate or even dangerously misleading. There are two important groups for whom this situation is a major concern. Thousands of families with young children are forced to live with the possibility that everyday foods may be contaminated by a known allergen which could kill in minutes. They live on their nerves, reading every packet and resorting to hyperprotective childcare and vigilance. In addition, the youngest independent consumers, teenagers and those in their twenties, may have little first-hand experience of food preparation. They may be ill-equipped in food-allergen risk assessment. Sadly, those who die from anaphylaxis or allergen-triggered asthma are often in this age-group. Current initiatives to support consumers at risk include a recognised standard for manufacturers seeking to eliminate an allergen from their production, and the integration of food allergy into training for caterers and food standards enforcement professionals.
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