To mark Allergy Awareness Week 2016, East Cambridgeshire District Council is reminding food businesses in the local area about rules which went live just over a year ago.
Since December 2014, all food businesses in East Cambridgeshire have had to verbally explain or signpost to where allergen information can be found.
According to a new survey of consumers by the Food Standards Agency and Allergy UK, the situation has improved for those with allergies since the new rules came in. In fact, only 16% reported no difference in the provisions of allergen information when eating out.
The Council’s food officers have contacted all food businesses in the district to tell them about new law as it came in and are generally finding a good level of compliance. Any new business registering is sent information about the allergen laws and how to comply.
The changes in the rules mean that all food businesses need to inform customers when any of the 14 specific allergenic ingredients, including peanuts, egg and milk, are present in the food they make or serve.
While this is great news, there is still more work to be done. Even though 52% of consumers surveyed felt more confident when asking for this information, since the new laws were introduced, many still experience negative attitudes when eating outside of the home.
Allergic consumers felt that businesses need to:
- take time to understand the importance of why food allergic consumers make such requests
- make necessary checks to ensure food is safe
- have more confidence when handling allergens in the kitchen
- not take an overly cautious approach to refuse service to those with allergies.
Some felt that a handful of businesses did not know what allergies are or take them seriously. Food allergies can cause life-threatening reactions and the numbers of people with this condition are growing. The primary cause of food allergy deaths in the UK is due to allergic reactions caused when food is prepared and consumed outside of the home where allergenic ingredients have been used and not declared.
In total, around a third of those with a food allergy have suffered a reaction in the last year when eating out of the home. The vast majority of these (25%) took place in a restaurant or cafe, with 9% being a result of takeaway food.
With around two million allergic consumers in the UK, it is easy to see why having the correct allergy information is good for business. Food outlets could be missing out on extra custom by not providing clear and accurate allergen information about the food they sell or serve. If any business needs advice and guidance on the new rules, they can get in touch with their local authority food safety officer for help.
Dr Chun-Han Chan from the Food Standards Agency said:
“In the UK around two million people are living with a food allergy and around 600,000 with coeliac disease. There is no cure for food allergies or intolerances, so the only way for people to manage the condition is to avoid the food that makes them ill. That is why providing accurate food allergen labelling and information is potentially life-saving. Since 2014, we have seen an increase in allergen information being provided to consumers. However, there is more work to be done and more improvements businesses can make.”