As the Anaphylaxis Campaign continues to receive reports from the allergic community about the lack of availability of FreeFrom and alternative foods during the coronavirus pandemic, we are taking measures to address this issue.
With healthcare under huge pressure due to the pandemic, the Campaign has been encouraging all those affected by allergies to stick to tried and tested recipes and ingredients to help keep themselves safe. However, the lack of basic staple foods has led to other shoppers buying alternative products from the ‘FreeFrom’ section of supermarkets meaning those products are not available for individuals with severe allergies who cannot buy substitutes.
Shelby Wigmore, a key worker and Anaphylaxis Campaign volunteer, said:
“My daughter is severely allergic to all nuts so I cannot have things that say ‘may contain traces of nuts’ or similar. We are fortunate enough to live in an area where I can access several supermarkets, so in normal times I can shop around to get the things she needs in one store but she can’t have in another.
“But now things are much harder. I am a frontline worker and my daughter is using the provision at her school for key workers so she still needs to have a packed lunch as normal. I can only access supermarkets in the evenings during the week, and by the time I get there, the shelves are cleared. I cannot just pick up another brand of something because my daughter may not be able to have that brand.”
Mrs Pring, also an Anaphylaxis Campaign volunteer, said:
“My son has egg and nut allergies, and we need to take care with certain vegetable oils. Finding the right bread on the shelves has been challenging. Finding the shelves empty was irritating at first and then alarming. Despite the fact that I am not a very good cook, I braved the cooking section in search of bread flour, only to find those shelves empty. I thought I could compromise with any flour and looked for yeast powder and, of course, there was none. I settled in the end for some a dry scone mix to which milk can be added.
“This is only one aspect of my son’s special diet that has been affected and I do not know how we will cope long term.”
We are taking this issue extremely seriously and have joined forces with Allergy UK and BSACI to send a joint letter to supermarkets and key industry stakeholders asking for their help to intervene and resolve this issue. You can read the open letter here. https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/2020/03/23/open-letter-to-supermarkets-on-the-availability-of-freefrom-and-alternative-foods/
Following on from this letter, the Anaphylaxis Campaign has also discussed several measures to alleviate the situation with DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency. These include:
- Signage in stores to request the co-operation of shoppers not to buy Freefrom foods unless they would normally do so.
- A joint messaging campaign from the Anaphylaxis Campaign, the FSA, DEFRA, BSACI, and Allergy UK to the public (along the lines of the #EasytoAsk Campaign) explaining why severely allergic people need special access to these foods.
- The potential for severely allergic individuals to be included in the vulnerable groups who currently have prioritised access at designated times to supermarkets, along with potential ways that these individuals could be identified.
We hope to have an update on these measures in the coming week. In the meantime, we are encouraging those affected to raise the issue with their local MP using our draft MP letter here: https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/2020/03/23/open-letter-to-supermarkets-on-the-availability-of-freefrom-and-alternative-foods/