As food allergy deaths hit the headlines, is there more that can be done?
Eating out when you have food allergies can be a struggle, but with recent fatalities hitting the headlines, is there more that can be done? When many in the UK have a potentially life-threatening food allergy, visiting restaurants can be a big risk.
There are an estimated 20 million people who have food allergies in the UK, according to Allergy UK.
Owen Carey died after eating a burger from Byron which contained buttermilk. The coroner ruled that he was not told about the allergens that resulted in his death. His family are no calling for a change in the law, as the current policy leaves too much room for error.
“It’s simply not good enough to have a policy which relies on verbal communication between the customer and their server, which often takes place in a busy, noisy restaurant where the turnover of staff is high and many of their customers are very young,” she said.
“This leaves far too much room for error on an issue we know far too well can cost lives. We hope we can bring about change with Owen’s Law for better allergen labelling in restaurants.”
Where does the law stand currently?
There are 14 official allergens that restaurants need to make customers aware of. This includes:
- Tree nuts
New regulations came into place in December 2014 which require food providers to ensure the information on these 14 allergens is available to customers. According to the FSA, this can be on the menu, chalkboard, information pack, or through a sign explaining that customers can ask a member of staff for details.
However, when the information communicated verbally through wait staff, Carey’s sister Emma Kocher believes there’s far too much room for error; “It is simply not good enough to have a policy which relies on verbal communication between the customer and their server, which often takes place in a busy, noisy restaurant where the turnover of staff is high and many of their customers are very young.”
In 2016, Natasha Ednan-Laperpouse’s died after eating a pre-packaged baguette containing sesame seeds, that was not labelled. Since then, the industry has been re-thinking how it approaches allergens. ‘Natasha’s law’ will go into effect from October 2021. It will require food businesses to include full labelling on pre-packed food.
An estimated 2 million people in the UK have a diagnosed food allergy and up to 20% of the population believe that they have a food intolerance, according to Menu Guide.
How can restaurants improve?
There are now calls for greater access and availability for menus. Such as providing the full correct allergen information online. Sine restaurants are using interactive allergen meny services like Menu Guide.