UK hospitality and the push to meet new allergy requirements
The UK is undergoing an overall rise in the incidence rate of food allergy, and yet deaths are on the decline. A study published by Imperial College London has found that deaths from food allergies are rare and have fallen at a rapid rate over the past two decades. Despite this, they remain a serious risk to potentially millions of people in the United Kingdom. For people living with food allergies, cooking at home can help to prevent allergic reactions. Yet, eating out still carries an inherent risk – one that places a barrier between them and their peers when it comes to something as simple as eating a pre-packaged sandwich. UK legislation is moving to change this.
While protection against allergic reactions has come a long way, when allergens aren’t properly identified the consequences can be tragic. In 2016, Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died when she ate a sandwich in which sesame had been used during baking. The sandwich had been improperly labelled, which meant that Natasha had been unable to see that it contained the responsible allergens. In response, the UK government introduced Natasha’s law, which mandates that all pre-packaged food has to produce an exhaustive list of potential allergens in the product. Hospitality industry businesses must adapt to this by re-assessing their packaging and labelling processes. Natasha’s family were made OBEs for their work in championing the cause, according to Hammersmith & Fulham council.
This law doesn’t currently extend to food menus – but perhaps it should. The necessity for pre-packaged foods to show every single allergen that they may potentially contain will go a long way to helping people with allergies avoid harm – especially given the popularity of convenience foods. However, sit-down restaurants and related eateries can arguably go to the next level through advancing their own allergen tables as per the Food Standard Agency regulations. Many chain restaurants already have a formal process in place, and it’s wise that smaller businesses get on board too.
The extra mile
While the overall picture when it comes to allergies is a positive one, it remains that there are issues in hotspots throughout the UK. In Swindon, the Swindon Advertiser reported that over 120 people were admitted to a single hospital over the course of a year with allergy complaints. Linked to the rush to get back into pubs and restaurants following the easing of lockdown rules, this sudden rise suggests complacency – from both restaurants and from shoppers. Both groups need to take that extra step in order that they remain vigilant to the threat that allergens pose to those groups, and take extra steps to get those protections in place.
Eating out is the real challenge when it comes to allergies. Restaurants and other hospitality businesses have a responsibility to do their best to protect members of the public. As well as safeguarding their health, this gives the opportunity for everyone to enjoy eating out equally.
The editorial unit