Whether you work in elementary school cafeterias or five-star restaurants, navigating the world of food allergies is an ongoing challenge to the foodservice industry.
This is perhaps most evident when handling common ingredients like eggs. Because they are incredibly versatile, eggs can be found almost everywhere.
Unfortunately, as many as 2% of children are allergic to eggs, and while many will outgrow that allergy, the reality is that dietary restrictions are growing increasingly more complex.1
Let’s crack the egg allergy conundrum with a little bit of knowledge! Read on for our guide to making your offerings safe and accessible for everyone, regardless of dietary restraints.
In this blog, we’ll cover:
What is an Egg Allergy?
As the second-most common allergy in children (about 2% of children are allergic to eggs), an egg allergy can plague your customers from their earliest dining memories.2
While many children may outgrow this sensitivity–it’s estimated that around 70% of kids will outgrow the allergy by age six–some allergies persist into adulthood, requiring lifelong vigilance.2
There are 23 different proteins in eggs, but the proteins that typically trigger egg allergic reactions are localized in the egg white. Only a minority stem from the yolk. The most problematic proteins are ovalbumin, ovomucoid, and ovotransferrin.3
When someone with an allergy is exposed to an egg, even a small amount, the proteins in the egg bind to IgE antibodies that are naturally made by the immune system. This sets off a reaction that can be very mild or very severe.
However, it's essential to underscore that an egg-allergic individual may react to any component of the egg, and in some cases, even the eggshell membrane can be a culprit.
This breadth of possible reactions means that you must incorporate a wide-reaching strategy when you’re managing food allergies.
How to Help Your Customers With Egg Allergies
Egg allergens, as you now know, are far more common than you may have previously thought, particularly among children.
Here are a few ways to keep your customers safe.
1. Know the Signs of an Allergic Reaction and How to Respond
Allergic reactions to eggs can vary—some individuals may experience mild symptoms like hives or a runny nose, while others can face severe, life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis.
For foodservice professionals, this means treating every potential egg allergy seriously.
Recognizing an allergic reaction as soon as it occurs is the first line of defense in managing any food allergy. As such, it’s important that you and the rest of your team members be well-versed in the signs of an egg allergy reaction, which can include:
Skin rashes and hives
Stomach pain and digestive issues
Respiratory problems such as asthma-like symptoms or wheezing
Cardiovascular symptoms, including a rapid or weak pulse,
Sudden drop in blood pressure
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Swelling of the face, lips, and throat.
If you see these symptoms in a customer, you need to act quickly and confidently:
Stay Calm: Your composure sets the tone for the situation. Remember, acting decisively can prevent escalation.
Emergency Response: If you suspect an anaphylactic reaction, administer epinephrine and call emergency services immediately.
Aid the Individual: Help them into a comfortable position, typically lying down, and monitor their breathing. This is especially important if the individual has lost consciousness or is showing difficulty breathing.
Record the Circumstance: Note the allergen you suspect, the dish, and any deviations from your standard allergen protocols. This information can be invaluable for medical staff and any necessary reporting.
2. Read Labels
Eggs are not just eggs. This seemingly simple ingredient hides in many forms and under different names in processed foods. Need some “eggs-amples?” Here are some ingredients and terms for egg derivatives you should watch out for when you’re screening ingredient lists:
Albumin (also spelled albumen)
Egg (dried, powdered, solids, white, yolk)
Meringue (meringue powder)
The list above is just the beginning–there are countless more obscure names used in food labeling that can signify any amount of egg content.4 Be vigilant when you’re reading labels!
3. Find Substitutions for Foods That Generally Contain Egg
Eliminating eggs from your recipes may seem like a daunting task, especially when they play such a crucial role in binding ingredients, leavening, and providing structure. But fear not, as the culinary world offers a range of substitutions5 that can emulate the properties of eggs in various dishes:
Baking: In cakes and cookies, you can replace each egg with a mixture of one tablespoon of ground flaxseeds or chia seeds mixed with three tablespoons of water. This creates a gel-like consistency that works as an effective binder and can even impart a pleasant nutty flavor. Commercial egg replacers, often based on potato or tapioca starch, are also widely available.
Binding in Burgers and Loaves: For savory recipes such as meatloaves or veggie burgers, breadcrumbs, oats, or mashed potatoes can help hold the mixture together in place of eggs.
Leavening: A mix of buttermilk and baking soda can serve as a leavening agent in fluffy pancakes and waffles. In recipes that require a lighter texture due to eggs, you may experiment with adding more baking powder and folding whipped aquafaba (chickpea liquid) into the batter.
Texture: For cream-like textures in dishes such as custards or mousses, consider using silken tofu or coconut milk as alternatives.
Some other common places where you might need to eliminate or replace eggs include dishes and ingredients like:
Breakfast foods like pancakes and waffles
Chips and crackers
Ice cream, sorbet, and custard
Pasta (many boxed, dry pastas are egg-free but may be processed on equipment containing eggs)
Glazes on pastries and candies
Egg substitutes (often contain eggs).6
It’s also important to note that egg white and egg yolk cannot be separated without cross-contamination, even commercially, so you need to avoid both, even though it’s likely only one is problematic for your customers.
4. Egg White vs. Egg Yolk: Know the Difference
Again, although most allergic reactions stem from egg white proteins, you need to recognize that the yolk isn’t always in the clear.
The proteins in eggs that tend to cause the most severe allergic responses are predominantly located in the egg white.
Proteins like ovomucoid can withstand the heat of cooking, making them persistent allergens, while others, such as ovoglobulin, are heat-labile and can be denatured and made less allergenic by cooking at high temperatures.7
However, for individuals with severe egg allergies, any contact with egg proteins, even on surfaces or utensils, can cause a reaction. When preparing egg-free dishes, consider using separate utensils and workstations, and be vigilant about the sourcing of pre-packaged ingredients to avoid cross-contact.
5. Chicken Meat is Usually Okay
The stigma of an egg allergy often leads to misconceptions about related poultry products, such as chicken meat. Fortunately, individuals with an egg allergy can safely consume chicken, as the egg allergy typically applies only to proteins within the egg itself.
The avian species share many proteins throughout various parts of the body, but the allergic response is specific to the proteins within the egg. This means that chicken meat, muscle tissue with minimal protein overlap, is typically well-tolerated by those with an egg allergy.
However, a strange phenomenon is that some people who are first allergic to chicken then find they are allergic to eggs, something known as bird-egg syndrome.8 But it doesn’t usually work the other way around.
6. Ask Your Customers About Baked Eggs
As bewildering as it sounds, a significant percentage of individuals (about 70%) with egg allergies can tolerate eggs in certain forms. Heating alters the protein structure, making it less allergenic.
Cooking eggs to a significant temperature alters the proteins that often trigger allergic reactions.9 This alteration can render the egg proteins less recognizable to the immune system, allowing most allergic individuals to consume them without incident.
But when dealing with egg allergies, it's essential to understand what constitutes a safe preparation. Baked goods that have egg as an ingredient and are cooked at high temperatures for an extended period are more likely to be tolerated, while lightly cooked or raw eggs, found in dishes like sunny-side-up eggs or homemade mayonnaise, should be avoided.
Again, though, it comes down to the customer as an individual. Just as no two people are exactly alike, neither are two allergies. You always need to ask if you’re not sure what might be safe or not.
7. Consider Using Egg Substitutes
Ingredients like flaxseeds, chia seeds, applesauce, silken tofu, and commercial egg substitutes are all among the potential repertoire of substitutes, each suitable for different applications.
The key to substituting successfully lies in understanding what kind of dish you’re making and knowing what role the eggs play.10 In one recipe, eggs might be used to help with leavening, while in another, they might be a binding agent. Knowing their purpose will help you find the right substitutes for customers with allergies.11
8. Avoid Egg Beaters
Egg substitutes like Egg Beaters might seem like a safe bet for your egg-averse customers, but these still contain egg protein and could trigger dangerous allergic reactions.
Even trace amounts can be harmful, so it's vital to look beyond the label's promises of health and compare ingredient lists carefully.
9. Take Measures to Prevent Cross-Contamination
Cross-contamination is an evergreen concern in the foodservice industry, and it’s a significant risk for those with egg allergies.
Sadly, even the most meticulous of cleaning practices may not suffice.
To protect your customers, designate separate preparation areas, utensils, and storage spaces for egg-free options.
10. Check Your Non-Food Items
Eggs aren’t limited to edible items; they can also be present in non-food items like soaps, cleaning agents, and even hand creams.
This is an often overlooked but critical aspect of ensuring a completely egg-free environment.
Remember, it’s not just what you serve on the plate but what you use to clean up, too.
11. It’s Not Just Chicken Eggs That Are Problematic
Many people are also allergic to eggs from duck, goose, turkey, quail, and other fowl. In other words, it’s not simply a chicken issue.4
This broader list of problematic allergens demands an expanded awareness and attention to lesser-represented products.
Always clarify the source of the egg ingredient to ensure it doesn't fly under your radar.
12. Call Your Supplier
Call your supplier if you have any questions about how or if eggs are used in certain products you’re purchasing. The FDA lists eggs as a major food allergen, so they must be included as such on ingredient lists.12
However, if you use international suppliers, be aware that food regulations can vary widely from country to country. This is especially important for products like eggs, which can find their way into the supply chain, often unnoticed, and potentially cause issues for unaware chefs.
Regular communication with suppliers can help you stay informed of any changes or potential cross-contamination issues that could affect the “egg-free status” of your ingredients or dishes.
13. Save Labels Even When the Product is Gone
Transparency in your offerings is a powerful tool for building trust with your customers. Have detailed allergy information readily available and ensure that your staff can explain how it might pertain to individual menu items.
This also includes making sure your website and menu materials are updated with accurate and accessible allergy information.
And don’t toss the labels when the food is gone. You never know when you might get a report of an allergic reaction, so it’s smart to keep records of labels for each and every ingredient you use (even if that just means keeping a picture on your phone).
14. Properly Train All Team Members
All it takes is one overlooked ingredient to turn a pleasant dining experience into a medical emergency. Your staff should be well-trained to handle allergy requests with the seriousness they deserve.
This includes knowing the menu inside and out, being able to identify potential allergens in a meal, and communicating clearly internally to prevent cross-contamination.
Front-of-house staff play a crucial role too. They are the first line of defense in collecting and communicating allergy information to the kitchen, and their ability to do so accurately can make a huge difference for your customers.
15. Clearly Label Your Menu
An allergy-aware menu goes beyond just providing a list of dishes-it offers a reassuring statement for patrons with dietary restrictions. Color coding, icons, or clear disclaimers can guide customers directly to the safest options. The more effort you put into your menu design, the more confidence you inspire in your ability to cater to diverse needs.
An allergen-savvy menu can also facilitate decision-making for customers, making their experience smoother and more enjoyable.
Of course, a great, clearly labeled menu can also be a great marketing tool. This commitment to transparency can attract customers who might otherwise struggle to find a safe dining option.
Elevate Your Eggspertise: Managing Egg Allergies with Trust20
We all know how critical (and, let's face it, challenging!) it can be to cater to customers with egg allergies. With eggs being a staple in so many dishes, you need to have a solid grasp of allergy management and risk mitigation to keep everyone safe.
Here at Trust20, we get it. We understand the ins and outs of navigating the complex world of food allergies. That's why our lineup of training products is designed to give you the knowledge and skills you need to ensure the safety and satisfaction of every single customer, no matter their dietary restrictions.
So, are you ready to level up your expertise in managing egg allergies and other dietary constraints? Dive into our range of products today and show your unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional hospitality to each and every patron.
Don’t let yourself crack under the pressure of food allergies!
American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology: Egg
Cleveland Clinic: Egg Allergy: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Allergenic Foods and their Allergens
Food Allergy Research and Education: Egg Allergy
Food Allergy Research and Education: Egg Substitutions
Stanford Medicine Children’s Health: Egg Allergy Diet for Children
Allergo Journal International: Update on the bird-egg syndrome and genuine poultry meat allergy
Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team: Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis | Food Allergens | Egg
American Camp Association: Egg Allergy: Revealing Facts and Unraveling Hidden Sources
Gordon Food Service: Egg Allergies - What Foodservice Operators Need to Know
FDA: Food Allergies