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Food Allergen Labelling Alert
Team Offbeat | 02 Oct

Following Pret a Manger’s recent troubles regarding allergen labelling, we get to grips with the latest.

A recent inquest into the death of a 15-year-old girl after eating a Pret a Manger baguette has highlighted the confusion surrounding allergen labelling.

A coroner has branded the chains allergen labelling “inadequate” following the death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Lapouse. The teenager suffered a severe allergic reaction to sesame seeds found in a baguette which were not highlighted on the packaging or on the fridge at the Heathrow Airport Outlet. The coroner stated that the information was “inadequate in terms of visibility” and “difficult to see”. However, a food safety officer said that the chain had not broken any laws and had conformed with current legislation which allows allergen advice to be conveyed via in-store notices and verbally by staff.

Under current food regulations, fresh food items that are prepared in-store do not need to carry direct allergen warnings. This raises concerns over the way large businesses are able to benefit from this legislation. It also highlights that labelling laws are not fit for purpose and need to be addressed at a higher level. The coroner, Dr Sean Cummings, vowed to write to environment secretary Michael Gove urging a review of current food regulations.

So, what should be displayed? All freshly prepared food and drink should be accompanied by information on the allergens they contain. This can be in the form of a sign, menu board or verbally explained to customers. Although, the later may not be the most reliable or practical solution.

There are 14 named allergens that must be conveyed:

  1. Celery and celeriac
  2. Cereals containing gluten
  3. Crustaceans
  4. Egg
  5. Fish
  6. Lupin
  7. Molluscs
  8. Milk
  9. Mustard
  10. Nuts
  11. Peanuts
  12. Sesame
  13. Soya
  14. Sulphur dioxide and sulphites at levels above 10mg per kg or 10ml per litre

It is essential that customers are fully informed about the food they are eating. Don’t get caught out, be sure that your food labelling is clear, concise and complies with current legislation.

By Charlotte Anderson

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