64% of allergy sufferers ‘avoided’ eating out in last 6 months

25/09/2018 - 08:16
A new survey carried out by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has found that 64% of people aged 16-24 with food allergies have avoided out at restaurants in the past six months.

Claiming they ‘fear’ eating out, the survey revealed that this could be due to down to a ‘lack of faith’ in restaurant/ menu options or that they are “comfortable with a certain restaurant and do not wish to 'create a scene' at a new establishment” – with 59% admitting to eating in the same outlets.

However, since the European Commission introduced the 'Food Information To Consumers' legislation in 2014, food packaging and non-prepacked food, including in restaurants and cafes, must now list all nutritional and allergen information. A ‘high percentage’ of those asked were aware of this.

Commenting on the results, ELAS food safety director, Fiona Sinclair said: “On one hand, it is the case that the food industry overall provides more allergen information and has better controls in place than ever before.

“With the introduction of the Food Information for Consumers Regulations in 2014, many businesses have now got robust procedures in place to comply with the law and keep customers with allergies safe.  

“For example, accurate information on allergens for each menu item, signage encouraging customers to tell them about their allergies, allergen buttons on tills, allergen awareness training for staff and managers and tight communication if a customer has an allergy.

“On the other hand, from our experience, too many businesses still don’t have safeguards in place, some virtually none, and in such cases consumers are right to exercise cautions.  

“We find this to be more common with smaller businesses who may still be unaware of requirements. For consumers with serious allergies, their life is virtually in the hands of a chef or waiter.

“There are a few suggestions we would suggest for consumers with allergies to help them assess whether the place they wish to eat out can be trusted - check their food hygiene rating; ask for allergen information and gauge how the staff respond; don’t be afraid to ask them what precautions they will take with your meal.

“You’re much more likely to get a clear and forthcoming answer from a premises with safe and clear allergen procedures, well trained staff and effective management in place.

“Here at ELAS, some of our restaurant group clients have excellent procedures in place and as a result gain a lot of repeat business, as allergy sufferers trust them.

“However they still want customers to tell them at each visit if they have an allergy so they can take extra care when prepping their meal.

“So in summary, we can understand caution in eating out, but would recommend asking a few simple questions to gauge whether your restaurant or takeaway of choice can be trusted."

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