Concerns that Sussex eateries are complacent over food allergies

A survey of people in Sussex and the South East showed that 74% of people are concerned about complacency around how food allergies are handled in eateries, and that more than half of respondents believe food businesses should do more to cater to people with food allergies.
Food allergy concernsFood allergy concerns
Food allergy concerns

The survey formed part of the national Safe to Serve report, which polled over 2,000 adults to highlight levels of awareness and understanding of food allergies and hypersensitivities, and the impact that hypersensitivities have on daily life. It was conducted by food safety training provider High Speed Training.

Out of those surveyed, 84% of people in the South East of England believe allergies are a serious issue, yet 52% of people think that people with allergies are often perceived as fussy or overstating the severity of their condition. Daniel Raymond, from High Speed Training, said: “This is a stigma that needs to be broken, as allergy safety is, for so many people, a matter of life and death."

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A third of people surveyed either had, or knew someone close to them with, a food allergy.

The report also reveals that food allergies in the UK are a growing epidemic, with younger generations far more likely to develop a food allergy than ever. Over 2 million people in the UK have a diagnosed food allergy, and out of those 25% will at some point experience a severe anaphylactic reaction. Furthermore, 1 in 5 live in fear of death by anaphylactic shock.

This fear is not unfounded, as evidenced by numerous deaths resulting from a lack of allergen awareness in eateries. Owen Carey tragically lost his life to an allergic reaction after dining out in 2017 due to a lack of clear allergen labelling and communication amongst restaurant staff.

Since Owen’s death, the Carey family have founded the Owen’s Law Campaign, which seeks to mandate allergen labelling on restaurant menus and advocates for proactive communication between restaurant staff and customers regarding potential allergens, alongside thorough staff training in allergen awareness.

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Recently, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have openly backed the measures called for by the Owen’s Law Campaign and have written to make this recommendation to Ministers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who are responsible for taking this forward. Despite this progress, there’s still a long way to go as the danger for allergy sufferers eating out is still very real.

Dr. Richard Anderson, Head of Learning and Development at High Speed Training, says: “Food businesses have a responsibility to follow best practice when it comes to allergen safety, as ultimately lives are at risk. Despite recent development in allergy safety regulations such as Natasha’s Law, our report shows that there is still a long way to go in providing customers with food hypersensitivities with safety and confidence whilst dining.”

“For food businesses, catering to all potential customers, regardless of dietary requirements, will be beneficial in increasing the amount of potential customers and the quality of service they receive. Regardless of the advantages to business, taking all possible measures to safeguard customers with hypersensitivities is the right thing to do given the potential consequences.”

“Promoting effective communication amongst staff and with customers, completing thorough food allergen training, and displaying accurate allergen information are three key actions food businesses should take to ensure the safety of your customers and to comply with future changes expected in the industry.”