Are your staff allergy aware?

Nestle Professional

By Karen Kingham, Accredited Practising Dietitian, Nestlé Professional
Sunday, 12 April, 2020

Are your staff allergy aware?

Accidentally consuming the wrong foods can have serious health implications for those living with food allergies or coeliac disease. As much as it is up to the individual to communicate their allergy and read food labels, healthcare staff must also be equipped with a better understanding of managing food allergies to help keep those at risk safe.

Despite Australia having the highest incidence of food allergy in the world,1 new research has found that adverse reactions to food are occurring in Australia’s aged-care facilities due to inadequate allergen management systems and processes. The research also indicated that the majority of healthcare facility employees want to improve their food allergen knowledge.

While food service training can be modified to suit hospitals and healthcare facilities, there are a number of unique aspects that need to be considered, from identifying patients upon admission to ensuring they receive the correct meal tray. Training staff can be a challenge, especially with a frequently changing workforce with a range of literacy levels. But with good systems and processes in place, patients and residents with allergen-free needs can place their trust in the food service.

To help healthcare providers deliver specific allergen-free menus, Nestlé Professional has created a series of free, easy-to-follow yet comprehensive allergen management resources. By offering practical tools alongside a portfolio of products that help simplify menu planning and kitchen workload, the resources endeavour to make life easier for healthcare staff and ensure the needs of patients and residents can be easily met.

Below are some top tips from the recently updated resource Gluten & Other Allergens in Healthcare: Your Practical Guide:

  • Check special dietary needs on admission.
  • Include special dietary needs in care plan.
  • Update special dietary needs in the menu management system or diet list.
  • Contact kitchen directly to provide details of special dietary needs.
  • Use a trusted supplier who provides product specifications or product information forms (these will clearly detail allergen information).
  • Don’t accept alternative products to those on an order without prior approval.
  • Check items delivered for correct product brand, pack size and use-by date.
  • Use an allergen matrix and standard recipes that identify allergens for all menu items.
  • Plan menus and recipes with experts in allergens including dietitians, food service managers and chefs.
  • To prevent cross-contamination, store foods without a specific allergen away from other foods.
  • Clearly label all foods taken out of their original packaging.
  • Thoroughly clean surfaces and equipment before allergen-free meals are prepared.
  • Where possible, use a separate work area, equipment and utensils to prepare and plate allergen-free meals.
  • Ensure all cleaning is done in accordance with food safety plans.
  • Transport allergen-free meals in a way to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Using local guidelines, confirm the identity of the patient or resident before serving their meal.
  • Never change items in an allergen-free meal once it has left the kitchen.
  • Know and enforce facility rules for storing and handling food brought from home.

Visit to access Nestlé Professional’s allergen-free resources.


Image credit: © Georghio

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