Until now, allergen declaration was exclusively obligated for processed foods by law. Provided that the ingredient was processed in the retrospective food, the 14 most common allergens had to be declared in the ingredient list. In many cases food-allergy sufferers can develop life-threatening reactions after consuming the smallest amounts of the intolerable foods. Consuming meals that have not been prepared by oneself is accompanied by risk and anxiety to develop an unwanted allergic reaction. In order to increase life quality for food-allergy sufferers, the declaration obligatory was extended by a new labelling regulation on European level. Since 13 December 2014, over the counter meals and beverages, e.g. at restaurants, bakeries and meat markets, must be labelled.
With an allergy, the immune system develops antibodies against actually complete harmless substances, such as foods. If one repeatedly eats these foods, the immune system reacts defensively with partly severe response, e.g. shortness of breath, urticaria, itchiness, skin or mucosa swelling, gastrointestinal disorders and circulation problems up until unconsciousness. Food intolerances are diverse and can occur when consuming food additives, lactose or fructose. The immune system does not play a role here. More likely gastrointestinal disorders (lactose and fructose intolerance) or skin symptoms (food additives) occur.
Allergens are diverse, small protein structures, for example in (vegetarian and animal) foods and in pollen or animals. Normally, their proteins are completely harmless. However, the immune system develops antibodies against these substances and as soon as an allergic person comes in contact with the allergen, severe overreactions of the immune system occur. Since the only available therapy for food allergies is complete renunciation, it is important for allergy sufferers to know if “his or her” allergen is included before a meal is consumed he/her did not prepare him-/herself. This is the only way he/she is protected from allergen contact.
The following 14 most common food allergens are under declaration obligation:
- Cereals containing gluten and any products derived therefrom (in particular wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut)
- Crustaceans and any products derived therefrom
- Eggs and any products derived therefrom
- Fish and any products derived therefrom
- Peanuts and any products derived therefrom
- Soy and any products derived therefrom
- Milk and any products derived therefrom (including lactose!)
- Nuts and any products derived therefrom (in particular almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamia or Queensland nuts)
- Celery and any products derived therefrom
- Mustard and any products derived therefrom
- Sesame seeds and any products derived therefrom
- Sulphur dioxide and sulphite (above 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/l)
- Lupine and any products derived therefrom
- Molluscs and any products derived therefrom.
Traces are not labelled. Furthermore, no threshold levels or other regulations, which define what a trace is, are existent. Even though the danger of cross-contamination is low, many producers insure themselves with the labelling of traces on the products.
In literature there is no exact data which temperatures and which durations destroy ALL allergens in foods. Lipid-transfer proteins (can be found in peanuts, lupines, celery and other vegetable, fruit and nut types) and storage proteins (especially relevant for peanuts) are extremely resistant to heat and digestion. That is why there are allergy sufferers who severely react allergic to cooked meals. These proteins are definitely “active” beyond heating, even above temperatures of 100°C. These are the ones responsible for severe life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis).
It is not clear above which temperature heat-labile proteins, such as PR-10 proteins (in almost all fruit and vegetable types and nuts), become inactive. For example, hazelnuts can be roasted at 140°C for 40 minutes and can still trigger allergic reactions to 5 out of 17 hazelnut-allergy sufferers.
Corresponding to the producers’ specifications, the allergens of all products are saved in our computer system. These labels are automatically included in the recipes and are transferred to the menu control system and menus. All production and counter employees are trained and instructed according to the specifications. During the production procedure the recipes are under strict adherence.
In order to meet the European labelling regulation, and prepare the corporations for the allergen management adherence and the proper declaration of the meals, our umbrella association “German Studentenwerk” worked closely together with the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF), which is located in Berlin. The Studierendenwerk Frankfurt am Main let its employees be trained by Quant Qualitätssicherung GmbH.