If a customer suddenly complains that his eyes and ears are itchy, his nose is runny, his throat feels like it’s swollen, and he’s coughing and wheezing, do you apply the Heimlich Maneuver? To the untrained eye, the poor fellow’s choking and, yes, the Heimlich is the thing to do and fast! Unfortunately, it could be the wrong measure—a mistake that could cost the diner his life and you your business. If the diner is having an allergic reaction, administering the drug epinephrine should be the first line of defense, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).
Allergens are substances that cause an allergic reaction in certain vulnerable individuals. FARE says about 15 million Americans suffer from a food allergy. Young people, those under 18 years, are especially vulnerable, with the latest data showing that one in every 13 individuals are affected. Some have severe reactions, enough to require a trip to the emergency room; others, only mild ones or none at all. One customer can eat a whole slice of peanut cake with no trouble, while another could go into shock for using a bread knife that was previously contaminated by peanut crumbs.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that food allergies send about half a million every year to hospital, approximately 200,000 of those end up in the ER. Of the latter, 30,000 are severe enough to be diagnosed as anaphylaxis cases. Tragically, some 200 people die each year from a food-related allergic attack. FARE estimates that food allergies in young people alone cost the U.S. economy nearly $25 million every year.
Surprisingly, just eight foods cause a whopping 90 percent of all food allergy cases in America. In order of incidence, the infamous eight are:
- cow’s milk
- tree nuts (almond, walnut, pecan, or cashew)
All eight are common food ingredients used in restaurants and other food-service establishments in the U.S.
Some of the symptoms to beware of are hives, redness of the skin (particularly around the eyes), itchy mouth or ear canal, a runny nose or nasal congestion, sneezing, dry cough, stomach pain, nausea or vomiting. If these symptoms are accompanied by trouble swallowing, a thickening of the lips or tongue, shortness of breath, chest pains, or a weak pulse, anaphylaxis should be suspected and treated accordingly.
It’s critical that food personnel are well informed about food allergens and well trained in handling food-related allergy situations. To do that requires the kind of food manager training programs, such as the Texas Food Safety Certification, provided online by Learn2serve. Proper training in food allergies could spell the difference between life and death, as well as between good business and a devastating food-safety lawsuit. Putting in place food safety protocols not only protects your patrons from food allergens but also bulletproofs your business from liability.
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Source: TABC Blog by Learn 2 Serve