A year on from the introduction of new allergen labelling rules, how are food businesses in Plymouth getting on?
To mark Allergy Awareness Week 2016, the City Council is reminding food business in Plymouth about the rules which went live in December 2014. Since then, all food businesses in the city have had to verbally explain and/or signpost to where allergen information can be found.
Environmental Health Food Safety Manager Katharine O’Connor said: “The legislation is designed to protect customers with food allergies. Food businesses must be able to confidently inform customers when any of the 14 specific allergenic ingredients including peanuts, egg and milk, are present in the food they make or serve, or be able to advise when their food is not suitable for allergy sufferers. Plymouth businesses are working well towards compliance, but there is more to be done. We are available to help with training courses, coaching, advice and resources. ”
Results from a joint FSA and Allergy UK survey of consumers nationally, shows the situation is improving for those with allergies. While this is great news, there is still more work to be done. Even though 52 per cent of consumers surveyed felt more confident when asking for this information, since the new laws were introduced, many still experience negative attitudes when eating outside of the home.
Jane Hayward from Plymouth suffers from a serious nut allergy. She said: “People often say they’re allergic when they don’t like something, but anything with nuts has a pretty dire effect on me. I’ve been violently sick, my throat has swollen so much it’s begun to close up – which is pretty frightening and on one awful occasion I nearly died”.
Food allergies can cause life-threatening reactions and the numbers of people with this condition are growing. The primary cause of food allergy deaths in the UK is due to allergic reactions caused when food is prepared and consumed outside of the home where allergenic ingredients have been used and not declared.
Dr Chun-Han Chan from the Food Standards Agency said: “In the UK around two million people are living with a food allergy and around 600,000 with coeliac disease. There is no cure for food allergies or intolerances, so the only way for people to manage the condition is to avoid the food that makes them ill. That is why providing accurate food allergen labelling and information is potentially life-saving. Since 2014, we have seen an increase in allergen information being provided to consumers. However, there is more work to be done and more improvements businesses can make.”
Where businesses fail to comply with the Food Information Regulations, the Council has the power to serve an improvement notice. If a notice is not complied with the food business may be liable, on conviction, to an unlimited fine.
Plymouth City Council offer online allergen training from £17, in addition to classroom training and workshops.
The council can also offer coaching to help businesses comply with the Food Information Regulations.