Alert for allergies
FIFTEEN food shops have been put on notice in just two months as authorities clamp down on operators putting people with allergies at risk.
One item was also removed from shops, with Victoria’s health boss warning vendors who failed to recognise the seriousness of anaphylaxis faced serious consequences.
About 50 cases of anaphylaxis — half caused by food — a week have been reported by hospitals to the Department of Health and Human Services since mandatory reporting was introduced in November.
Victoria's acting chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton, said the new system would make food premises more alert about the seriousness of allergic reactions.
It would also help councils get on top of safety risks at shops in their municipalities.
“There have been instances internationally where there have been prosecutions be- cause people do have a duty of care, especially for known anaphylaxis,” Dr Sutton said.
“Service providers need to be aware they have absolutely got an obligation to make sure someone doesn’t get exposed to that health risk.”
Of the cases of anaphylaxis recorded, 284 were food-related, 74 reactions to drugs or medicine, and 72 were from insect venom.
Problem cafes and restaurants were followed up by their local councils to ensure they had proper practices to deal with food allergens.
Dr Sutton said he was not allowed to name the food recalled as part of the crackdown.
About 10 Australians die from anaphylactic reactions each year.
Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia national president Maria Said told the Sunday Herald Sun: “We’ve long been seen as the allergy capital in the world.
“Everyone is alarmed at the numbers of anaphylactics.
“It’s ironic that we have mandatory RSA (responsible service of alcohol) certificates for people serving alcohol, however we don’t have mandatory certificates in food allergy.”
Mandatory reporting of anaphylactic reactions was introduced following the death of 10-year-old boy Ronak Warty, who suffered a fatal reaction to a coconut drink with an undeclared milk ingredient.
The imported drink remained on shelves for six weeks after his death because the hospital did not notify the health department.
Experts said compulsory training was needed for food servers and chefs regarding the potentially fatal dangers of cross-contamination.