Council reacts to food allergy incidents

In a move to protect members of the public, Sheffield Trading Standards and Environmental Health have contacted all relevant food businesses registered in Sheffield to highlight the importance of providing accurate information on allergens.

On average there are 10 food allergy deaths per year in the UK, with those in their late teens and early 20s who are starting to make their own food choices, most at risk.

Recent high profile cases where food businesses have failed to comply with the legislation have resulted in prison sentences for some food business operators. The legislation applies to all food businesses including those providing institutional catering such as schools, hospitals and care homes.

Sheffield City Council has provided an information pack to more than 4,500 food businesses, which includes a letter outlining the importance of providing accurate information, a Food Standards Agency advice booklet, signage to display so customers know that if they suffer from any allergy or intolerance the information is available and a matrix which they can complete so that all information is readily available to staff.

The council has been working with businesses since the legislation was introduced in 2014 but have taken these further steps to remind businesses after identifying continuing gaps in awareness and compliance, and in light of recent cases in the UK that have resulted in death or serious injury.

Cross contamination can lead to very serious allergic reactions and businesses must take the required steps to avoid it happening. The Food Standards Agency website includes all the information needed together with free essential staff training, which the council has also shared with all the relevant registered food businesses.

Councillor Lewis Dagnall, Cabinet Member for Environment and Street Scene at Sheffield City Council, said: “The recent reports of allergy-related tragedies, incidents that might have been preventable, highlight the importance of our role in keeping people safe when they eat out. We will continue to work with food businesses to make sure they meet their responsibilities to keep their customers safe.”

Ian Ashmore, Head of Environmental Protection at Sheffield City Council, said: “Food businesses must take responsibility for the potential harm that can come to their customers through reactions to the 14 named allergenic ingredients, and we have provided a lot of guidance to help them avoid risk of injury, including death, to those who are affected.

“I would urge allergy sufferers to always ask about allergens where food is not fully labelled and to ensure that they carry any prescribed medication in the event of a severe reaction; even if they have eaten the same food before.

“We ask that people tell us if premises are not compliant with the regulations so that we can work with them to bring Sheffield’s food businesses up to safe standards for everyone.”

The Food Information Regulations 2014 requires businesses to be able to identify any of 14 allergens listed by EU law that are used in any foods sold or provided by them. This would also apply to anyone selling by other means such as over the telephone or internet where information must be provided before the consumer makes the purchase if required.

Both Trading Standards and Environmental Health officers regularly carry out inspections which include checks on allergen compliance and will continue to do so. This may also include sampling where a product or dish will be analysed to check for the presence of an allergenic ingredient that should not be there. Sheffield City council will take very seriously any failure to follow the advice given.

In the last six months the council has visited 40 food premises following complaints or referrals directly concerned with allergen information issues.

There is no cure for a food allergy the only way someone can avoid getting ill is to adhere to a strictly controlled diet.

Further information including free online training for businesses can be found by following the links on the Food Standards Agency Website at www.food.gov.uk/allergens.

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