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Food sector

Food_industry.jpgFood-allergic people rely on the food industry to provide accurate and easily accessible information about what is in their food – there is no cure for food allergy so they need to avoid the food allergen completely.

Every time they eat – whether it is a pre-packaged product or a meal at a restaurant – they are putting their trust into those who have prepared the food that allergen management policies are in place and that the information supplied about ingredients is accurate.

Food manufacturers and the food service industry must ensure that they know the source and content of ingredients; that storage, handling, preparation and serving or packaging of food has included allergen controls.

To find out more about food allergies, click here.

Allergy New Zealand has produced two free posters for the food service industry: one is on general food allergy awareness (click here to order) and the second outlines steps you need to take if you have a customer with food allergies (click here to order).

Regulatory obligations

Be aware of your obligations relating to allergen labelling and controls under legislative acts, such as the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and the Domestic Food Review .

Regulations as they apply to food allergen management

The purpose of the Food Act 2014 is to achieve the safety and suitability of food for sale through implementing risk-based measures. These are set out in National Programmes (levels one – three) and Food Control Plan (FCP). Most food manufacturers will come under a National Programme, and most food services will need to register under the FCP. Food allergen management is referred to in both the National Programmes and FCPs.

For more information click here

Through the Food Act 2014, MPI is also responsible for regulating the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Food Code, which sets standards for labelling, composition etc. The Code defines the food allergens which it is mandatory to declare, under Std 1.2.3/4 as:

  1. added sulphites in concentrations of 10 mg/kg or more;
  2. cereals containing gluten, namely, wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt
  3. crustacea
  4. egg
  5. fish
  6. milk
  7. peanuts
  8. soybeans
  9. sesame seeds
  10. tree nuts, other than coconut from the fruit of the palm Cocos nucifera.

For more information including exemptions, please see the full list here.

Hospitality training video

27 July, 2016



Aimed at front-of-house staff, this video describes steps to take in serving a customer with food allergies.

The video was made by Allergy New Zealand on behalf of the Allergen Collaboration, a coalition of some 25 New Zealand and Australian organisations, established in 2011. The Allergen Collaboration is chaired by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and includes representatives from regulators, food industry and food service organisations.  The Collaboration has also established a portal with resources available for industry and consumers to use, available here.

The Collaboration identified the need for training in the hospitality sector to protect food allergy sufferers and food establishments from the avoidable medical, legal and financial consequences of an allergic reaction. Allergy New Zealand was appointed to produce the video on their behalf.

The video is also designed to provide food service providers, such as cafes and restaurants, with confidence in serving customers with allergies who often feel alienated from dining in public due to discrimination, or fear of an allergic reaction.

The video also aims to let food allergy sufferers know advice is available, so they can feel better supported when dining out. It sets out the responsibilities of both the allergy sufferer and the food service supplier including what to do in the case of an allergic reaction.

Under Australian and New Zealand law, food service suppliers must display information about food allergens in connection with the display of the food or provide this information to the customer on request. This is so that customers can make informed choices when ordering and buying food in their establishment. In New Zealand, the newly passed 2014 Food Act requires food service providers to implement a food allergen plan, to provide customers with accurate information on allergen content.

This video demonstrates a process that can be followed, to ensure people with food allergies are well informed about the venue and its approach to allergies.

A few tips for restaurants and cafes

  • Take food allergies seriously – even tiny traces of the food can cause a severe allergic reaction
  • If a dish contains an allergen – reflect this on the menu, e.g. chicken stir fry = chicken and cashew stir fry.
  • Consider a sign on the wall or a note on menus asking food-allergic guests to inform the manager of their allergies.

Tips for front of house and wait staff

  • Listen carefully to your customer – write down the foods he/she is allergic to
  • Inform the head chef and other kitchen staff of the foods that your customer is allergic to
  • Provide accurate ingredient information to your guest – if you are not sure whether a food contains the allergenic food or ingredient information is not available, do not guess. Say you are not sure and refer the question to the head chef on duty.
  • Wash and dry your hands carefully before serving the allergic customer’s food.
  • Signs of an allergic reaction include hives; rashes; swelling of face, lips, eyes, tongue; difficulty breathing, cough, wheeze, hoarseness; vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps; fainting, collapse and shock.
  • Call 111 and state your customer may have anaphylaxis (anna-fill-axis). Stay with the customer until help arrives.

Tips for the chef

  • Talk to your customer about menu alternatives
  • Ensure you have complete ingredient information from your suppliers
  • Ensure raw ingredients are stored carefully to prevent cross contamination. Do not share serving utensils.
  • Check labels of all ingredients in a dish. Know common terms for allergens, such as ‘whey’ or ‘casein’ for milk, ‘albumin’ for egg.
  • All equipment and utensils should be cleaned with hot, soapy water before being used to prepare a dish for a food-allergic diner. Be sure to keep the clean equipment separate from equipment being used for other orders.
  • Thoroughly wash and dry utensils, cutting boards, containers and grills to avoid cross-contamination between foods.
  • Think before adding nuts and seed oils, dressings, sauces and garnishes
  • Avoid cooking with fats or oils that have been used to cook other foods
  • Keep the safe meal separate to other dishes before it is served to the customer.

Allergy New Zealand and the food industry

Allergy New Zealand welcomed the introduction of mandatory allergen labelling in 2002 in standard 1.2.3 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, which ensures the main allergens are labelled, including egg, milk, peanut, soyabean, tree nuts, sesame seed, wheat, fish and shellfish.

We have been involved in many food industry and regulatory meetings, conferences and workshops representing the food-allergic consumer since that time, including writing several submissions to Food Standards Australia New Zealand and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority about allergen labelling issues.

Mandatory allergen labelling brought several challenges to the Australasian food industry and as a result the Australian Food & Grocery Council (AFGC), supported by the NZ Food & Grocery Council, initiated the Allergen Forum. One of the major projects of the Forum has been to review the AFGC Allergen Management Guide and to establish online allergen information and advice at the Food Safety Centre Allergen Bureau.

Allergy New Zealand also works closely with The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) providing information and input into educational and regulatory policy involving allergens.

Product Alerts

We can email our members and product alert database:

• Allergen Food Recalls
• Product reformulations / labelling changes
• Non-food product allergen information

Corporate Membership

We welcome professional membership of Allergy NZ by food companies.
Benefits of membership include
• Annual subscription to our magazine Allergy Today
• Three complimentary sets of our Allergy New Zealand information booklets
• Member discount rate on all Allergy New Zealand resources and services including special discounts on bulk orders
• Regular updates through our magazine and e-network
• Access to information through our extensive networks nationally and internationally, including the latest published research available through the international Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Alliance
• Access to electronic versions of our information resources e.g. Food Allergy Fact Sheets; Allergy Education Guide for Schools & Preschools
• Preferential access to our education seminars and programmes for health and education professionals
• Opportunities to participate in our Allergy Awareness campaigns, and to support us in representing the interests of people living with allergies where possible.

Find out more or join online by clicking here.