The new EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation will mean that information about allergenic ingredients will have to be made available for non-pre-packed as well as pre-packed foods. The aim is to make information clearer and more consistent.
The new regulations will also require cafes and restaurants to provide information on food allergens. This could be done in writing (for example, on a menu or a blackboard) or the information could be given verbally by a member of staff. Restaurant staff will no longer be able to say they don’t know, or aren’t sure whether the food they serve contains any of the major allergens.
Lynne Regent, CEO of the Anaphylaxis Campaign said: “We welcome these new EU regulations and we have been actively engaged in their implementation.These new rules will enable people living with severe food allergies to feel more confidence, reassured and safe whilst eating out.”
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.
A group of concerned parents, including Sarah Reading’s father David Reading, founded the Anaphylaxis Campaign to raise awareness of severe allergies and to improve food labelling and NHS care of the condition.If a similar tragedy happened after these regulations come into force in December 2014, the department store that served this dish would be taken to court.
Food allergens are life threatening to those who have a severe allergy to them.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 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.
Mr Obertelli, who has eaten curries from the Market Street takeaway since he was a youngster, said: “As a family our only previous dealings with a serious allergic reaction has been a fatality. It isn’t right that every time you go out for a meal you play Russian roulette with your life. Restaurants think you are being fussy when you say you have an allergy but it is not somebody being picky — it is something they really can’t eat.”
There are 14 major allergens which need to be declared:
- Cereals containing gluten namely wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan wheat), barley, rye and oats
- Crustaceans like prawns, crabs, lobster and crayfish etc.
- Nuts namely almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan nuts, brazil nuts, pistachio, cashew, macadamia or queensland nut
- Sulphur dioxide or sulphites (where added and is >10mg/kg in the finished product. Often found in dried fruit and wine)
- Molluscs like clams, scallops, squid, mussels, oysters and snails etc.
How behaviour of people with allergies might change following the regulations?
- Should stay the same – they should continue to stay vigilant and talk to food service staff in the same way about allergenic ingredients before eating out
- The difference is they will have a legal right to know what is in their food
Some stats about how many people are believed to have food allergies:
- 6-8 % of children have a proven food allergy (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2011)
- 2-4% of adults have a food allergy
- Cases of peanut allergy alone have tripled in the last decade
- UK hospital admissions for food allergies have increased by 500% since 1990 (Gupta, 2007)
- Every year around 20 people in the UK will die from anaphylaxis (about 10 of these from food)