Allergens are substances which, once they recognized by the immune system of people and animals as strange dangerous bodies, these produce antibodies that can cause allergic reactions.
We can find these substances in dust, medicine, in insect poison, pollen, latex and mostly in some foods.
According to the FDA, about 160 foods which can cause allergic reactions have been identified; however, 90% of food allergies are caused by the following foods:
Milk, eggs, fish, crustaceans, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybean.
For its part, the WHO sorts them differently; taking under consideration that, other than these 8 foods, there are others that must be identified as important for reaction control:
Cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats); crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts and soybean; milk and dairy products; tree nuts and their derivatives and sulphites in concentrations of 10 mg/kg or more.
Generally, symptoms of food allergies appear within a few minutes or within the first 2 hours after a person has eaten foods to which he/she is allergic.
Among the allergic reactions, the following can be included:
The initially mild symptoms that occur after ingesting a food allergen do not always indicate that it is less severe; in fact, if not treated quickly, these symptoms can become more severe in a short period of time and lead to anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis consists in the constriction of the airways of lungs, severe drop of blood pressure, shock, and suffocation caused by a swollen throat.
In the farming industry, allergens are not introduced as part of the ingredients due to the fact that these are regularly products consumed fresh. However, one must be careful with cross contact. This occurs when the allergen is involuntarily transferred into the plant, mostly due to the handling of workers.
Diverse certifications in food safety aligned with the GFSI are taking this subject under consideration in their requirements, through the performance of a risk assessment in all its stages, and implementing actions in accordance with the matters identified in this process in particular.
It is important that companies train and raise awareness among their personnel about the identification and handling of allergens, to avoid the potential pollution of their products, and so this can affect in turn the health of consumers. For this reason, companies affiliated to the Eleven Rivers/Veggies from Mexico community, on a weekly basis, review the implementation of these actions during field and packaging assessments, to ensure that the risk of getting that tiny little amount of allergen reaching the end consumer is being minimized.