New allergen regulations are not to be sneezed at

By Rob Willock

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Asthma

Rob Willock: PMA survey suggests 64% don't think allergens information is necessary
Rob Willock: PMA survey suggests 64% don't think allergens information is necessary
It’s hard for me — as someone who has never suffered from allergies except for a mild reaction to cats, or intolerances beyond a very rational dislike of some people — to understand what it must be like to have to worry about what you eat and drink.

That’s not to belittle the concern and discomfort that food allergies and intolerances can cause. Some of my best friends are allergic! Symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from mild itching and rashes, through to more serious effects like vomiting, diarrhoea, wheezing and anaphylactic shock. And it appears that food allergies are the fate of an increasing proportion of the UK’s population.

It is estimated that 1% to 2% of adults and 5% to 8% of children have a food allergy, which equates to around two million people, and even more suffer from food intolerances. Furthermore, it is believed that each year the number of allergy sufferers increases by 5%.

That might explain why I can’t remember allergies being a big deal when I was a kid, and why concern about food allergies and intolerances seems to be a relatively modern phenomenon.

In the seventies, no one seemed to obsess about ensuring schools, for example, were peanut-free, let alone devoid of fish, soybeans, celery, mustard, or any of the other 14 “major allergens” that caterers now have to declare to their customers. And I don’t recall anyone keeling over as a result.

Maybe people were suffering in silence, unable to control their discomfort, until modern medicine provided them with an explanation, and advice about what to avoid consuming. But that information is only half of their solution.

It’s no good knowing what to steer clear of if you then can’t be sure where those things are. Hence the new EU regulations on food labelling that come into effect this weekend (13 December) and which mean pubs will have to provide information about the use of allergenic ingredients in their food and drink — if not explicitly on menus, then via clear signposting to direct the customer where to find it.

So how ready is the pub industry for this new regime?

In our exclusive poll, PMA readers gave themselves — on average — a score of 3.4 out of 5 in terms of preparedness. But only 32% of respondents said they could name all 14 allergens. A more fundamental concern is that licensees appear not to have been persuaded of the merits of the regulations, with 64% saying they do not believe they are necessary.

This may be because they are not currently encountering problems in this area. Some 57% said they are “hardly ever” asked for allergen information. But perhaps with increased public awareness of food allergies and customers’ rights under EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation No. 1169/2011, licensees will find an increase in demand for help on this issue.

Ultimately it’s worth remembering that around 10 people in the UK die from allergic reactions to food every year. So for goodness sake, do everything you can to ensure that doesn’t happen in your pub!

Related topics: Legislation

Related news

Show more