According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, food allergies affect 9 million children and 4 million adults, with these numbers expected to rise. Allergic reactions to foods can range from mildly uncomfortable to fatal. When an allergic individual encounters their particular food allergen(s), symptoms may begin as mild tingling of the lips and mouth, or present as hives on the skin. Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, can occur in a patient who has been exposed to their allergen in any quantity, with some patients even experiencing reactions from traces of their allergen present in steam. Fully 90% of food allergies are caused by just eight foods: milk, eggs, fish, soy, wheat, peanuts, shellfish and tree nuts. Sometimes, the foods we eat can have a disruptive effect on our digestion. We may initially identify the reaction as an allergy, when in fact, it is intolerance. Unlike the immune reaction of a food allergy, a food intolerance response begins in the digestive system. Food intolerance symptoms can be the result of an enzymatic deficiency or sensitivity to food additives. Food intolerance reactions can be uncomfortable and even painful, but intolerant individuals can generally eat small amounts of the food or chemical to which they are intolerant without facing any real danger.
Because food allergies can be life-threatening, identifying the allergens in the foods you serve, and accurately labeling foods for storage as well as in your patient menus is crucial. Unfortunately, food labels can fall short when it comes to identifying allergens. Currently, regulations that govern food allergy labeling apply only to foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration; this typically excludes meat, dairy and eggs. With eggs being one of the eight foods targeted as an allergen, however, food manufacturers are required to identify foods that contain eggs as well as the other aforementioned common food allergens. Labels can also fall short when it comes to potential cross contamination with food allergens. Manufacturers use phrases like “Manufactured in a facility that also processes tree nuts” that may indicate a risk of exposure with no real guarantee of safety. In the hospital setting, identifying and labeling foods that contain potential allergens is made easier and more accurate with patient menu and dietary office management software. At Vision Software, we offer comprehensive software suites that interface with recipe databases and patient records. When your food service staff has access to thousands of foods with identified ingredients, and allergy information that is presented for each patient at the time an order is placed, you can be sure that each of your patients has access to nutritious, safe food that will support their recovery and overall health. To learn more about how this powerful software can protect patients while reducing food costs and increasing patient satisfaction, call 629.777.8989 today.