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If you need to cater for a guest with an allergy, it is important that you know where the allergen is most likely to be found. Here is a list of the most common allergens, the types of food you will find them in and tips on finding alternatives.

Tree nuts

Tree nuts

Tree nuts include almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, macadamia nuts and chestnuts. These can be commonly found in sauces, desserts, crackers, bread, ice cream, marzipan, ground almonds and nut oils.

TIP: Read the peanuts section below.

Peanuts

Peanuts

Peanuts are often found in sauces, cakes, desserts, groundnut oil, peanut flour and peanut butter.

TIP: Make sure you have an indemnity on your menu if you use nuts in your kitchen!

Cow’s milk

Cow’s milk

Cow’s milk is present in yoghurt, cream, cheese, butter, milk powders and foods glazed with milk.

TIP: If a recipe allows for it, substitute milk with water, soy milk or fruit juice in sweet recipes. However, guests allergic to milk may also be allergic to soy, so do take note of that when using these substitutes.

Crustaceans or shellfish

Crustaceans or shellfish

Examples of crustaceans include: shrimp, prawns, crab, lobster, and crayfish. Traces of allergens found in such crustaceans can also be found in shrimp paste.

TIP: When required, replace shellfish with a smoked fish that has a strong flavour.

Soybeans

Soybeans

Ingredients like tofu or beancurd, soya flour and textured soya protein are made from soybeans. As such, traces of soybean can be found in some ice cream, sauces, desserts, meat products and even vegetarian products.

TIP: Use rice flour and canola oil for baked goods. 

Eggs

Eggs

Eggs are used in the preparation of most cakes, mousses, sauces, pasta, quiche, as well as some meat products and mayonnaise. It is also sometimes used as a finishing sheen for some pastries. 

TIP: Substitutes vary by dish. For baking, try replacing egg with mashed banana. For savoury dishes, crumbled tofu works quite well as an egg substitute. 

Fish

Fish

Fish is present in some salad dressings, pizzas, relishes and sauces such as fish sauce, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce.

TIP: Use mayonnaise as the base for dressings and fresh ingredients to flavour the dish.

Wheat

Wheat

Wheat is one of the most predominant allergens. It is commonly found in foods containing flour such as bread, pasta, cakes, pastry, meat products, sauces, soups, batter, stock cubes, breadcrumbs as well as in foods dusted with flour.

TIP: Those with a wheat allergy can usually consume other types of flour such as rice flour, buckwheat flour, cornflour and maize flour, so you may experiment with these to replace wheat flour in your recipes. 

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance occurs in individuals who lack the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest the sugar lactose found in milk. Common symptoms are diarrhea, wind and general discomfort if consumed.

What can people with lactose intolerance eat?
Soy milk, soy yoghurt, rice milk and dairy-free cheeses such as soy cheese (note: soy is also an allergen).

What can’t they eat?
Cow’s, sheep, goat’s (or any type of mammals’) milk, some cheeses, dairy desserts, ice cream, butter, cheese and natural yoghurt. 
 

What is gluten intolerance?

Gluten intolerance is caused by the body’s inability to break down gluten, a protein found in wheat, also known as celiac disease. It is an autoimmune disease and those diagnosed with it should try to eliminate gluten from their diets.

People with gluten intolerance can eat… 
Rice flour, buckwheat, cornflour, maize flour and flours that are made from nuts, beans, seeds, chickpeas, quinoa, and soya. 

They can’t eat… 
Gluten-containing flours, including: wheat, barley, rye, oat, malt and couscous.

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