Cambridge student calls for better allergen labelling in colleges

Cambridge student calls for better allergen labelling in colleges

  • 19 February 2024
  • Business News
  • News

Pembroke student Hannah Mawardi is urging colleges to take action to protect students with food allergies after being served foods containing her allergen at Cambridge formals three years in a row.

She has published an article ‘Pembroke gave me sesame three times. Let’s start taking allergies seriously’ in Varsity, the newspaper for the University of Cambridge, highlighting her experience and offering practical ideas for how Cambridge and other Universities can keep their students safe.

Hannah explains that she was served sesame in meals on three separate occasions despite letting staff know ahead of time that she was allergic to sesame. On the most recent occasion, an error meant that catering received the wrong dietary information which led to her being served the wrong meal. When she requested a different one, the staff served her a meal containing tahnini without realising tahini contains sesame.

In previous years she was served bread containing sesame and tahini yoghurt. Talking to other students, she found that Pembroke had made other mistakes too despite being awarded its Allergen Accreditation in 2015.

Recent updates in law including Natasha’s Law and Owens Law aim to improve labelling and, now, a Pembroke student called Pasidu Perera is working alongside the parents of Shiv Mistry, an 18 year old who died after drinking a cocktail containing milk, to build an app called Shivlet. It’s an allergy communication app which can translate 19 allergens into 136 languages. “Our vision is to hopefully get this compatible for other apps which distribute food, like Upay for formals, or food deliveries, so that there’s a standardised way of communicating allergies online” he said.

Hannah explains how Universities can make further improvements. “Pembroke’s allergen-free serving station in trough is an example of where the catering department succeeds. Nevertheless, there are still ways which Pembroke can make life easier for allergy sufferers, such as updating the formal hall’s menu design so that allergens are displayed fully.

“For allergy sufferers, checking ingredients is a habitual part of daily life. Removing the opportunity to read allergen lists can remove our sense of control over what we are eating. Pembroke already provides this sort of menu for ordinary dinner service, so this would be a simple but significant change.”

Read the article in Varsity