Call to follow allergy policies
A mother has urged restaurants to quickly follow new rules about allergy labelling for food, revealing her family has been unable to eat out for a year because of her daughter's severe reactions.
Natalie Fleet, 30, said one-year-old Lottie's sensitivity to milk and soya often leaves her in extreme pain and suffering sickness and swelling of her head and means she cannot risk taking her and her siblings out for dinner.
The mother-of-four from Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, spoke ahead of a law change which comes into effect tomorrow requiring restaurants and takeaways to tell customers if any of the top 14 allergen ingredients are in the foods they serve.
She told how they had stopped eating out or having take-aways because they often could not be sure what was going to be in the food, with staff often being unable to help.
She said: "It has been over year that we haven't been able to eat out.
"It is hard enough raising a family as it is but with Lottie, she can't tell you if she is in pain or eating something she shouldn't. It restricts what we can do together as a family."
She added: "I was worried that as long as the allergy lasts we would not be able to eat out. Knowing that the legislation is coming in, it's going to have a massive impact and I hope everyone takes it on board."
According to research from the Food Standards Agency and Allergy UK shows that 53% of allergy sufferers avoid eating out through fear of having a reaction and not trusting the information they are given. Some 70% avoid takeaways for the same reason.
Under the new rules restaurants and takeaways will have to inform their customers about 14 specific allergens, ranging from nuts and milk, to less widely recognised allergens including mustard and lupin seeds, which are often used in flour.
Around two million people in the UK suffer from allergies including 2% of adults and 8% of children. On average 10 people die and around 5,000 are hospitalised per year due to allergic reactions, the FSA said, with the majority of avoidable cases caused by incorrect information about ingredients in food.
The rules allow businesses some flexibility in how they provide information, ranging from menus and leaflets to verbal explanations from staff.
The EU Food Information for Consumers Regulations will also change the way allergy information appears on labelling for pre-packed foods bought in shops and supermarkets.
Chun-Han Chan, a food allergy expert at the FSA, said: "With a steady rise in the number of people suffering from food allergies and intolerances in the last decade, these new measures will make it simpler for those with allergies to buy and consume food.
"Allergies can be fatal for some people and this is why it is vital that food businesses give their customers information they can trust.
"The legislation is a huge step forward for those with allergies, who should now feel confident they have a right to ask about allergenic ingredients in the foods they buy.
"This normalises allergen information as something that should be available at all times."