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New scheme to protect young people with food allergies

Feeling different is never easy, but for some young people with food allergies it is having worrying implications that are threatening their health.

According to new research, many young people are too embarrassed to talk publicly about having food allergies or intolerance especially when in a social setting with their peers – risking allergic reactions or even more fatal consequences. Others are avoiding going out to eat altogether.

The research was carried out by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in partnership with Allergy UK and the Anaphylaxis Campaign. It has revealed that 41% of people aged 16-24 who have food allergies or intolerances do not feel confident at all, or only feel a little confident, to ask serving staff for allergen information. The research also reveald almost two thirds of those surveyed avoid dining out because of their condition.

In the UK, food businesses must tell you if they use any of the 14 key allergens as ingredients in the food and drink they provide. Food businesses include restaurants, cafés and takeaways, and businesses that produce, manufacture or pre-pack food.

Easy to Ask campaign

That is why Ealing Council is partnering with the FSA to on a new ‘Easy to Ask’  campaign designed to help break down this barrier. Easy to Ask reminds food establishments to ask customers about their dietary needs, and help put people with food allergies (especially those who are young and may be embarrassed) at ease.

The 14 allergens food businesses must be aware of and be able to provide their customers with information on are: Peanuts, tree nuts, milk, cereals containing gluten, eggs, crustaceans, molluscs, fish, soya, sesame, sulphur dioxide/sulphites, celery, mustard and lupin.

‘We want to ensure businesses are prepared’

Helen Statham from the council’s food and work place safety team said: “We’ve seen some progress in how food businesses approach customers with allergies. However, 60% of 16-24 year-olds with food allergies and intolerances have avoided eating out in the past six months because of their condition. It’s clear there is more to be done to encourage this particular age group to speak up and make them feel at ease when dining out. We want to ensure businesses are prepared with the relevant allergy information and encourage them to make it easier for everyone to ask the question, speak up and help keep those at risk safe.”

Dr Chun-Han Chan, food allergy policy lead at the FSA, said: “Working in partnership with Ealing Council we are dedicated to encouraging conversations between food businesses and their customers across the country. Together we want to help young people living with food allergies be confident that the food they are served is safe to consume every time.”

If you have concerns about how restaurants are providing allergen information to consumers, you can report it to the food safety team at Ealing Council by emailing foodsafety@ealing.gov.uk

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