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What’s on your plate? Food allergies can be fatal

24 May 2016

Sheffield Trading Standards are reminding local food businesses that they must know and make clear what’s in the food they are serving.

Sheffield Trading Standards Officers recently visited 29 premises to make sure they were complying with the regulations brought into force in December 2014 by the Food Standards Agency.

45% of these premises were found to be fully complying with the legislation, however 10% were not complying at all.

In many cases the notice telling customers that they could ask about allergens was not displayed or was in the wrong place, and many did not have information about which allergens were in the foods they sold.

Changes in December 2014 to food labelling legislation mean that food outlets need to inform customers, if asked, when any of 14 specific allergenic ingredients including peanuts, egg and milk, are in the food they make or serve.

Food businesses have flexibility in 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.

Thomas Ludlow, a fourth year medical student from Sheffield has suffered from multiple food allergies since childhood including milk and milk products, eggs, shellfish and nuts. He knows only too well the perils of eating out when you have food allergies.

Thomas said “Growing up we rarely ate out as most food outlets simply didn’t cater for people with allergies so it’s great that restaurants and cafes are now starting to take the new regulations on board.

“I’ve had some great experiences and also some quite scary experiences. The worst was when a restaurant I visited told me the dish I ordered was safe to eat but I had an immediate reaction as soon as I started eating.

“My airways started to swell and I was having difficulty breathing. The restaurant had to call an ambulance. Luckily I was treated quickly but it could have been much worse.

“It can sometimes be a bit embarrassing and people think I’m just being fussy when I ask about what’s in the food but for me it could be life or death.

“For me, the best establishments are those that can point out the food options that are safe for me to eat rather than telling me about specific dishes”.

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.

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 took place in a restaurant or cafe, with 9% being a result of takeaway food.

Bryan Lodge, Sheffield Cabinet Member for Environment said “Due to the risk of a serious allergic reaction or death, businesses who continue to ignore the law could face legal action by Trading Standards and or the police.

“We would like to hear from any members of the public who think that they have visited a business that isn’t compliant with the regulations.

“There really is no excuse now as advice on how to comply is freely available”.

Easy-to-understand information and downloadable resources are available on the FSA’s website www.food.gov.uk/allergen-resources to help businesses with these rules. Businesses can also get in touch with Sheffield Trading Standards at trading.standards@sheffield.gov.uk.