It is important to take allergies seriously, as some food allergies can be life threatening.
Our Trading Standards Service are working with food businesses in Lancashire to help them be more allergy aware and raise awareness of the consequences of getting it wrong.
Megan Lee was 15 - she was taken to hospital after suffering an asthma attack brought on by an allergic reaction. Megan had been served food prepared with nuts. She died two days later. Watch Megan's story >>
About food allergies
Food allergy is a serious and growing public health issue. There has been a dramatic increase in allergic diseases in recent years; so much so, that now it is thought that as many as one in three of the UK population, or 21 million people, live with an allergy of some form and this number is increasing at an alarming rate. (Mintel, 2010)
Hospital admissions in England for allergy and anaphylaxis are also on the increase and have risen by more than a third in the last five years. And, on average, one person is admitted to hospital, every 20 minutes, due to an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis. (Data from NHS Digital shows there were 29,544 hospital admissions in 2015-16 for allergic reactions. That compares to 22,206 admissions in 2011-12.)
It is therefore important that everyone knows what to do to make it as safe as possible for those with allergies and to know how to help them.
It is the responsibility of all food businesses to provide accurate allergen information if requested.
There are 14 allergens recognised in law. These are:
- cereals containing gluten, such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut and their hybridised strains
- peanuts (also called groundnuts)
- nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamias and Queensland nuts
- crustaceans (includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps and prawns)
- molluscs (includes mussels, cockles, oysters, scallops, squid and octopus)
- sesame seeds
- milk and milk products (including lactose)
- soy beans
- sulphur dioxide and sulphites at levels above 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/litre expressed as SO2
The Food Information Regulations 2014 require a food business to provide information to customers relating to the allergen content of all its food.
It is a criminal offence not to provide this information.
If you have a food allergy and are eating out in restaurants, cafes, takeaways or buying food from places that make it themselves, ALWAYS announce your allergies or intolerances before ordering. This is so that the business can tell you what you can eat.
Be aware that even if food is wrapped, it does not automatically mean that it will have allergen labelling as current provisions allow for allergen information to be given verbally in some circumstances.
How to tell if a food business is allergy aware
It is good practice for a food business to display an allergen poster advising you to ask about allergens in food. They may also display allergen details on their menus.
If you feel that a business is not very helpful in supplying allergen information you can report this to Citizens Advice Consumer helpline or contact them on 0808 223 1133.
If you have a food allergy, it is important that you can trust the food you are buying. To help keep you safe sign up to receive free allergy alerts.
What to do in the event of an allergic reaction
If you or someone you are with feels ill or has a reaction to a meal, make sure you seek medical help immediately. Visit the NHS website for treatment of allergies
Watch our film on what it is like to live with an allergy, with tips on how to help people with allergies.
The BBC also have a film more suited to younger people.