The Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) is calling for a change of culture in businesses, regulation and enforcement, so that people with allergies can readily find the information they need to keep safe.
The recent media coverage about teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who died from anaphylaxis caused by sesame has highlighted the need for a more co-ordinated approach from businesses, and tighter legislation, according to the organisation.
The recently completed inquest heard that an artichoke and olive tapenade baguette, bought at Pret A Manger at Heathrow Airport, and which included sesame as part of its recipe, was the cause of death.
Pret a Manger relied on UK law that permits no allergen labelling on products that are not prepacked, or which are prepacked on the premises where they are sold. Instead of labelling on the packaging itself, it is permitted to prompt consumers to ask about allergens.
This is done by ‘signposting’ with a label attached to the food, or on an easily seen notice where the intending purchaser chooses their food. The business must indicate that the details can be obtained by asking a member of staff and ensure that allergen information is available and easily accessible to the consumer. A ‘prepacked food’, legally refers to a food item which cannot be altered without opening or changing its packaging, as opposed to foods packed on the sales premises at the customer’s request or prepacked for direct sale.
IFST has said it welcomes Pret’s commitment to meaningful changes in allergen labelling, announced by CEO Clive Schlee, and supports Michael Gove’s intentions to urgently consider the situation after the coroner called on the Government to examine labelling rules, specifically on whether large businesses should be able to benefit from regulations, allowing reduced food labelling on products made in shops.
Sterling Crew, Chair of IFST’s Food Safety Group stated: ‘I believe when businesses are fully complying with the regulations, and such tragic cases still occur, the law needs to be reviewed’.