Despite new labelling rules, the Food Standards Agency has revealed that a quarter of people with food allergies suffer reactions when eating out.
The survey, by the FSA and the charity Allergy UK, shows that while improvements have been made for those with allergies since new labelling rules came in a year ago, more needs to be done. The survey also found nearly one in five (19 per cent) of those allergic reactions resulted in a hospital visit.
The survey, carried out to mark Allergy Awareness Week 2016, found that overall, 83 per cent of respondents noticed an increase in measures designed to make life easier for allergic consumers, including menus marking out allergens, and staff actively checking food information with the kitchen. More than half (58 per cent) of allergic consumers said that their overall experience of eating out has improved; just six per cent said it has got worse. As a result, a similar proportion (52 per cent) say they now feel more confident eating out than they did before the legislation was introduced.
However, people with allergies still report problems when eating out. More than two thirds (69 per cent) experienced staff not understanding the severity of an allergy, and how easily a mistake can cause a reaction. A similar number (68 per cent) saw staff with a lack of knowledge of what’s in the food. Over half (56 per cent) had been made to feel like an inconvenience due to their allergy.
Dr Chun-Han Chan, Food Allergy Expert at the FSA, commented: “The fact that allergic consumers are noticing gaps in the knowledge of people serving them makes it evident that more needs to be done by food businesses to educate their staff on allergens. The number of people suffering from food allergies and intolerances has increased in the last decade, so it’s clear that it is not something businesses can ignore.”