Allergen legislation: more work needed from pubs and restaurants

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

Allergen legislation: more work needed from pubs and restaurants

Related tags: Asthma, Food allergy

One in four people with a food allergy have suffered a reaction while eating in a pub, restaurant or café, despite the new Food Information to Consumer (FIC) regulations that came into force in 2014, figures from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have shown.

Research by the agency revealed that, of those allergic reactions in eating-out venues, approximately one in five (19%) was severe enough to warrant a hospital visit.

Dr Chun-Han Chan, food allergy expert at the FSA, said: “In general the situation is improving for the two million food allergic consumers in the UK and greater numbers have the confidence to eat out.

Survey

“However, our survey has found this isn’t true for everyone and many establishments aren’t yet providing the information their customers need.

“The fact that consumers are noticing gaps in the knowledge of people serving them makes it evident that more needs to be done by food businesses to educate their staff on allergens,” he added.

FIC came into force in December 2014. Since then, hospitality businesses have been legally obligated to provide detailed information regarding the presence of 14 major allergens including gluten, shellfish and peanuts in their food.

Improved

Despite more than half (58%) of allergic customers saying their experience of eating out had improved since the onset of the legislation and a significantly small (6%) number saying it had got worse, 69% said they had been waited on by staff who had not properly understood the severity of an allergy or how easily reactions can occur.

Sixty eight percent said they had been served by staff with a significant lack of knowledge of what allergens may be in the food or what is on the menu – in one example, a member of staff confused eggs with dairy.

“Food businesses have been given flexibility on how they provide allergy information – this can be communicated verbally through explanations by staff or signposted to where or how more information can be found on menus or in additional leaflets,” said Dr Chun-Han Chan.

“Failure to provide allergen information in the food you serve is a criminal offence and can result in an unlimited fine being issued.”

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