The Anaphylaxis Campaign recently became aware of news reports in the media stating that major supermarkets had introduced new social distancing rules in store, asking customers not to touch food items unless they intended to buy them, and suggesting that if items were touched, customers would be obliged to buy them.
We received several enquiries to our helpline and social media channels with concerns from people living with allergies that they would not be allowed to check labels fully when shopping, or that they could be subject to criticism and judgement from shop staff and other shoppers if they needed to return an unsuitable item to the shelf.
The Anaphylaxis Campaign joined forces with Allergy UK and wrote to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the British Retail Consortium to request clarification on this important issue and we received the following response from the BRC which was supported by DEFRA:
“Please note this has been misreported. None of our members are operating a ‘no touch’ policy. Some retailers have a recommendation in place for shoppers to be mindful when shopping as part of advice on social distancing. Our members are highly aware of the need for checking product labels, not just by allergy sufferers, but by all consumers.”
We also wrote directly to ASDA supermarket about their ‘no touch’ policy and were reassured by President & CEO Roger Burnley of the following:
“We know there are reasons why some customers will still need to check the packaging, including because they need to check ingredients for allergens. This is not a strict policy and.…. this ask is only where customers can do so. I have asked that we reiterate to all of our ASDA retail colleagues that we do not expect them to stop or challenge customers about this.”
The Anaphylaxis Campaign always advises people with allergies to check ingredients labels, even when buying a product they have eaten before, as recipes or production methods often change which can lead to a change in ingredients. We hope this information provides reassurance that product labels can still be checked for allergens where necessary without fear of reproach.
We will continue to monitor the situation and if you have any concerns please contact our Helpline which is still open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm on 01252 542029 or email [email protected]