The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has recently advocated for compulsory inclusion of allergen information on restaurant menus. This initiative was set in motion during a board meeting, where the FSA resolved to urge government ministers to pass new legislation to this effect.
This movement finds its roots in the tragic case of 18-year-old Owen Carey, who tragically passed away due to an allergic reaction after consuming a Byron chicken burger containing buttermilk on April 22, 2017. Following this incident, Carey's family launched a petition demanding mandatory written menu allergen information. This petition quickly gained nearly 13,000 signatures and sparked a parliamentary debate in May.
Professor Susan Jebb, chair of the FSA, emphasised the agency's commitment to improving the lives of over two million individuals suffering from food allergies, intolerances, or coeliac disease. She stated, "It was clear that the board feel that we should set an expectation that food businesses like coffee shops and restaurants provide allergen information in writing as well as having a conversation."
In addition to advocating for written allergen information to be legally required, the FSA plans to develop comprehensive guidance for food businesses on effectively providing this information. The agency also highlighted the ongoing need for verbal communication between customers and food service staff, adding an extra layer of consumer protection.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, acknowledged the seriousness with which hospitality businesses approach allergen management. She pointed out the importance of dialogue between staff and customers in catering to those with allergies, alongside other methods of communicating allergen information. Nicholls also noted the readiness of the hospitality sector to collaborate with the FSA in developing practical guidance, considering the dynamic nature of menu items and ingredients.
The FSA's proposal marks a significant step towards enhancing food safety and transparency. As we await further developments, we invite you to share your thoughts and opinions on this initiative. How do you think this change will impact restaurants and consumers alike? Leave your comments below.