The new Food Information Regulation (FIR) came into effect from 13th December 2014. Since its introduction staff at restaurants, cafés, delis, and takeaways are no longer allowed to say they do not know what is in their food, and they must declare if any of the 14 top allergens are present in the dishes they serve.
The aim of this regulation is to make the lives of people with severe allergies easier and less stressful when it comes to eating out. The FIR was approved in 2012, with its agreed implementation coming into force two years later to allow the food industry to prepare for the change.
However, we are deeply disappointed to hear on 10th March 2015 that top chefs such as Albert Roux, Mark Hix and Thomasina Miers have attacked the new regulation in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, claiming that it is ‘damaging creativity’. They have written that they feel this regulation, created to keep their customers safe, is not being accepted positively. These chefs have argued that the new regulation is not only costing them in money but also in “spontaneity, creativity and innovation”. We can understand this is not a simple task – however we stress that it is one that is absolutely necessary, and must be taken seriously.
We believe that chefs still have utmost freedom to be creative with their dishes, they just need to make the necessary arrangements to list the allergen content to their customers affected by food allergies.
Food allergens are life threatening to those who have a severe allergy. The only way people can manage a food allergy is to avoid the foods that make them ill. Food allergens cannot be removed by cooking.
One of the catalysts for the formation of the Anaphylaxis Campaign 20 years ago was the death of a 17 year old girl, Sarah Reading, who experienced a fatal anaphylaxis reaction after she ate a lemon meringue pie in a department store café. This dish had crushed peanut sprinkled on the top which she was not informed about by the restaurant staff, and was not marked on the menu.
One of our members, Steven Obertelli, went into anaphylactic shock soon after tasting the chicken tikka masala he ordered from his regular curry house. Shortly after tasting the curry Mr Obertelli had problems breathing. He felt his throat closing and his lips swelled. He used his adrenaline auto-injector and was taken to hospital by his parents. He then suffered a second reaction when the medication wore off and stayed in hospital overnight.
Steven had told waiters at Westhoughton Indian Tandoori Takeaway that he was allergic to nuts — but chefs used a new ingredient in the curry, unaware that it was ground peanuts. Steven’s reaction, in May 2013, came 10 years after Mr Obertelli’s elder sister Kate, a nail technician, died after suffering a fatal reaction to peanuts. In July 2003, the 21-year-old died after eating an Indian takeaway. She had also told waiters she had an allergy.
The Anaphylaxis Campaign is the only UK-wide charity solely supporting people at risk from severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). For over 20 years we have provided information and support of the highest quality to patients and their families.
We work with healthcare professionals, the food industry and pharmaceutical companies to deliver better understanding of allergies and anaphylaxis.
We empower patients, carers and healthcare professionals through our Allergy Wise online training.
We actively campaign for better allergy care and treatments.