Last updated: 20.10.17

Avoiding allergic reactions in a home baking business

Unfortunately for the 2 million people in the UK currently living with a food allergy (according to the Food Standards Agency) the majority of everyday baking ingredients have the potential to trigger severe allergic reactions. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) estimates that roughly ten people die from food-induced anaphylactic reactions per year. According to Allergy UK, 44% of allergy sufferers in the UK live in fear of a reaction every day. Luckily, most of the commonly used ingredients for baking can be easily substituted for other items. In most cases, swapping these for replacement ingredients doesn't necessarily mean you have to compromise on taste.

The severity of allergic reactions

Allergic reactions can vary from person to person – ranging from mild digestive irritation, to more severe or even life threatening situations. Whether you are a home baker or a professional caterer, it is essential that you ensure allergens never come into contact with the people who are allergic to them. In the EU there are currently 14 established allergen categories, each of them detailing individual items which can cause reactions.

Common Allergens in baking

The most common allergens which appear in the majority of traditional baking recipes are gluten, wheat, eggs, milk or lactose as well as nuts – almonds and hazelnuts being the most commonly used. It is important to be conscious of the fact that any customer could have any number of allergies – which is why you should always properly label and package your baked products with a full list of ingredients. While dairy products, nuts, and flour tend to most commonly cause problems – they also tend to be the easiest and cheapest to replicate or replace when baking for your business.

Using alternatives

Easy alternatives for baking flour, for example, could be anything from quinoa flour, barley flour, whole wheat or even oat flour. However, these types of flours do not have exactly the same effect as all-purpose flour when it actually comes to baking. In terms of their texture and taste, the slight differences in their gluten quantity and fibre content means you might have to slightly tweak the rest of your recipe to make up for these changes. Keep in mind when preparing gluten-free baking that a lot of the substitutes only replicate one or two of the effects that gluten usually provides – as such, you might need to include a couple of replacements rather than just the one.

Virtual College food allergy training

Virtual College’s Food Allergy Awareness Training course is designed to help learners identify the fourteen particular food allergens which must be recognised by law – and to understand why foods containing allergens must be handled carefully. The course is aimed at food handlers and anyone working in a role that involves contact with food, or the management of such people.

About the training

  • Meet the UK training requirements for food handlers
  • Online, self-paced training
  • Interactive course with colourful animations
  • Complete in one to two hours
  • 24 hour learner support
  • Instant digital certificate on completion

About the e-learning content

The content of this e-learning course includes:

  • An introduction to food allergy awareness
  • What is a food allergy?
  • Legislation
  • Practical Process

Training outcomes

By the end of the course learners will:

  • Understand what a food allergy is
  • Learn to recognise symptoms of an allergic reaction
  • Know what ingredients and examples of food can cause allergies
  • Understand what labelling is required on pre-packed food
  • Understand the things to consider to keep consumers safe
  • Know how to provide allergen information specific to your food business
Virtual College article - Food allergy legislation for caterers
Food Standards Agency – Allergy and basic stats PDF

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