There has been a 44% increase in home-based food businesses since the start of the first lockdown, according to a new centralised online registration system used by nearly 200 local authorities, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has revealed. The FSA also said that the growth of at-home food businesses is a concern, particularly as this poses an extra risk for the allergic community.
If you have a food allergy, it is now more important than ever before to take extra precautions when ordering food, particularly if the food business is new to providing food via distance selling.
There are strict laws covering the provision of allergen information in foods and you can read a detailed guide on our website here
When providing food through distance selling, businesses must provide allergen information about any of the 14 major EU allergens in the foods they prepare and serve whether that is ordered through an online platform or app, or over the telephone.
The allergen information must be available to you at two stages through the ordering process.
- Prior to the point of ordering – this can be given verbally or in writing (for example in an online menu)
- At the point of delivery – if a ‘no contact’ delivery is planned, this will need to be in writing (for example, stickers on packaging).
If you have concerns that a food business is not complying with these laws, you can report the business to your local Trading Standards.
Here’s some tips to help you prepare and stay safe.
- Always phone the restaurant in person to discuss your allergy requirements, don’t rely on notes or messages relayed online or through apps that may get missed.
- Ask about the dish/es that you’d like to choose and if they’d be suitable.
- Ask about ingredients, how the food is prepared and whether cross contamination with your allergens is likely. Speak clearly, factually, politely and calmly.
- Ask the person to make a written note of your allergy/ies.
- If the person sounds unsure and you feel the risks are high on this particular occasion, it may be best to try somewhere else.
- Be aware that recipes for a particular dish can vary from one restaurant to another and even in the same chain. A different chef may add or leave out particular ingredients. So just because you’ve eaten something on one occasion and been OK, doesn’t mean the dish is necessarily safe next time. ALWAYS check!
- If you are receiving the food through ‘no contact’ delivery (e.g. left on the doorstep) make sure to ask how your allergen free food will be labelled (e.g. stickers, or written on the packaging)
- If the allergen information is not clear when you receive the food, do not take the risk and eat it. Phone the food business and ask for a refund.
- Before you eat, make sure you have your medication with you, that it’s in date and that you know how to use it.
- If you think you are having a reaction, treat according to your emergency care plan and dial 999/get a friend to do so.
- If you feel at all faint or dizzy, then lie down on the floor, ideally with your knees up on a chair. Don’t stand up suddenly. If you are not faint but are wheezy, you will probably need to sit up.
Don’t forget that as a member of Anaphylaxis Campaign you can input your reviews of the places you’ve ordered food from, with regard to their allergy understanding and read existing member reviews of the best and the worst of your local eateries. Click here to leave your review now
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