Agenda item

Food Allergies and our Role in their Control

This report provides an overview of the Council’s work in controlling food allergies in food businesses.




Graham Morrison Environmental Health Officer provided a presentation of the Council’s role in controlling food allergies in local businesses. An overview was provided of the work that the Food Safety team had carried out to keep residents and visitors to the borough, safe. The UK law defined 14 substances that needed to be clearly labelled or indicated as being present in foods. In Britain, these substances were: celery, cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, lupin, milk, mollusc, mustard, nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, soya, and sulphur dioxide. He showed slides that explained the role and the bodies response to allergic reactions, anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock, food intolerance and histamine poisoning. A local case study of a customer suffering an anaphylactic shock after eating a takeaway and the steps taken by the Council were outlined. The customer reported the case to the Council and relevant investigations were carried out by the team. 2 statutory notices were served on the business and as a result their website was updated.


An overview was provided on the Law and regulations relating to food allergies. Additionally, the three basic styles of sale to the public were noted. These included catering & take-away, pre packed retail (e.g. supermarket), and retail made on the premises (e.g. Pret a Manger). Currently legal requirements varied across this spectrum. On 4th July 2019 the Food Standards Agency (FSA), following consultation with all interested parties, issued the following decision. “Mandate the name of the food and full ingredient list labelling, with allergens emphasised, on packing of food prepacked for direct sale.” The Food Information (Amendment)(England) Regulations were laid on 5 September 2019 and would come into effect on 1 October 2021. Local authorities would be responsible for enforcement as part of the routine inspections.


Graham Morrison explained that the Council had a statutory responsibility for food hygiene and food standards in all food outlets; this included food allergies, of which 14 were listed in the legislation. Routine inspections were made on a risk-based schedule and complaints were investigated as they occurred and appropriate action was taken. There were many different theories suggesting why allergies occurred, however the issue had not been resolved. There had been an increase in reporting and going forward, officers would ensure that the website was updated to raise awareness of what questions needed to be asked when ordering food to minimise risk.


The Chair welcomed Tanya & Nadim Ednan Laperouse, parents of Natasha Ednan Laperouse who had a fatal allergic reaction after eating a partially labelled baguette, containing sesame. Mr and Mrs Ednan Laperouse commented that they were pleased to note that under ‘Natasha’s law’, food businesses would have to include full ingredients labelling on pre-packaged food. The law was set to come into force by Summer 2021 and businesses would be given a two-year implementation period to adapt to the changes. It was noted that according to data relating to food allergies, this affected 5-7% of infants and 1-2% of UK adults, extreme cases had resulted in fatalities, therefore this needed to be taken seriously.


Tanya & Nadim Ednan Laperouse felt that businesses needed to do more work around cross contamination and clearly labelling pre-prepared food and menus of any food allergies. Both parents supported the work carried out by the Council and noted that awareness and academic support was vital to tackle this issue, whilst developing new therapies that would offer hope for effective allergy treatments.



The Chair thanked Mr and Mrs EdnanLaperouse for sharing their story with the Committee and was pleased to note that ‘Natasha’s law’ was due to come into force by 2021. In addition, she offered the support of the Council for this cause.


Councillor Iain Cassidy enquired whether smaller companies were being as proactive as larger ones.  In response Graham Morrison explained that larger companies were taking this matter seriously, however staff required more training. This issue was more challenging to tackle amongst smaller businesses due to the challenges faced around complicated and lengthy menus. It was noted that the warnings needed to be displayed in obvious locations and the Council took formal action where businesses failed to comply. A substantial more intensive piece of work was due to take place in 2020 to address some of the key concerns within the borough.


Councillor David Morton asked if food allergies predominately affected Western European countries or was this a broader concern. Graham Morrison explained that this was a wider issue affecting many countries globally.


Councillor Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler queried how many Council officers undertook allergen related work. Stephanie Needham, Interim Head of Environmental Health noted that there were 4 full time equivalent (FTE) posts. In addition, the Council had also secured Section 106 funding for a Food Environment Health Officer (EHO), however this was for the current financial year 2019/20 and was specific to Westfield. There were 2000 registered premises in the borough and each year the Council had a duty to inspect a set amount of businesses to ensure that their practices minimised the risk of harm to the consumer. Part of complying with food safety was managing food hygiene and food standards


Councillor Ann Rosenberg felt that food allergies was a growing issue, particularly in Western Europe and asked if businesses could use adequate signing and label each item going forward. Graham Morrison said that most businesses displayed a small text on their lengthy menus, however this was often overlooked. It was essential for businesses to ask customers if they had any allergies at the beginning of their order and provide them with a menu chart to minimise risk.


The Chair asked how regularly the food hygiene and food standards inspections were carried out. In response Graham Morrison explained that statutory food hygiene and food standards inspections were a principle tool in the prevention of food incidents including allergies. Food hygiene inspections were carried out at least every 6 months for businesses that posed a high risk. Food standards inspections must be made at least every 12 months for highest risk businesses and at least every 5 years for lower risk businesses. As food safety and food standards inspection timing was not coincident, officers looked at the robustness of allergy systems regardless of the next scheduled food standards inspection. In addition, labelling menus were examined during routine sampling programmes.


A resident queried if there was a website available to check details relating to allergies e.g. if he was hosting a dinner for a group of people at his house. Graham Morrison explained that the law required the 14 food allergens to be outlined in bold on packaging, therefore it would be important to check the labels before purchasing food items. In addition, it would also be useful to directly ask people of any specific allergies. Additionally, the Council was updating the website to ensure the latest information was provided, including new developments on this matter.



THAT the Committee noted and commented on the key importance and potential impact of this issue and the ongoing work of officers.



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