In our ongoing series on food allergens, we're shining a light on some potentially hidden sources of top allergens. In this article, we examine some of the top foods that Food Handlers may not know contain eggs. Eggs are one of the most common allergies in Australia, and particularly common in children. It affects about 9.5% of infants aged 12 months, dropping as children get older to about 1.2% by four years of age.
As a Food Handler, you need to take every precaution to avoid serving food containing common allergens to customers with allergies, whether those allergies are mild or severe. To do so, it's extremely important to know the ingredients (and, if applicable, ingredients of ingredients) in the dishes being served. Eggs, along with other allergens such as shellfish, peanuts, milk, soy or wheat, are present in small amounts in dozens of foods — many of which may not be obvious.
Two parts of eggs are considered allergens: the yolk and the white. Eggs often go by different names in ingredients lists, making them difficult to identify. Some of the other names are apovitellin, conalbumin, lysozyme ovoglobulin or silica albuminate, to list only a few. Pre-made foods are often the worst culprits for hidden allergens, and can be ingredients in the foods being prepared for customers.
Here are our top seven foods that you probably didn’t realise contain eggs:
- Imitation meats — Meatless "meats" made with plant proteins and other ingredients that mimic the flavour, texture and appearance of animal meats often contain eggs.
- Pasta — People tend to think of pasta as a wheat or grain product, but fresh pasta is made using a dough consisting of eggs and flour. Dry pasta, such as packaged egg noodles, also contains egg.
- Salad dressings — Some salad dressings or creamy dressings may contain eggs, so you should have appropriate warnings and disclaimers for customers and staff.
- Sauces — A wide range of sauces used for many purposes, e.g. Béarnaise, Hollandaise, Newburg or tartare, contain of egg.
- Fat replacers — Products used to replace fats in low-calorie foods may contain eggs or traces of egg.
- Desserts — Desserts such as custards, meringues, puddings, ice creams and marzipan may all contain eggs. Be especially careful with pre-packaged desserts that frequently list eggs under other names.
- Surimi/kamaboko — Surimi is a paste made from fish, typically found in imitation crab meat. Kamaboko, a type of cured surimi, is used in some East Asian dishes like Japanese udon soup. Egg are often used as a binding agent in these products.
The importance of ensuring these foods are not served to customers with egg allergies cannot be overstated. The best way to avoid allergy incidents is by thoroughly reading all manufacturer’s labels and ingredients lists, and ensuring all staff are trained on how to identify eggs in products. If there is no ingredient list, best practice is for Food Handlers to avoid using that food altogether.
The Australian Institute of Food Safety (AIFS) Resource Library provides useful guides and reference materials on key food safety topics, including a downloadable fact sheet on identifying egg allergens. It details everything you need to know about protecting customers from one of the most common food allergens. If you're not already an AIFS member, join today or contact us for more information.