Every year there 4,500 hospital admissions in the UK resulting from food allergies. Those most susceptible to serious harm, or even death from allergies, are children and young adults - as allergies tend to get less sensitive the older we get.
One such victim of a lethal allergic reaction was a 15-year-old, Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who recently died at Heathrow Airport, having suffered a severe reaction to a baguette from Pret A Manger. This has raised serious concerns as to what law is around allergy warnings on goods and what is to blame for deaths like Natasha's.
What is the law on food allergy warnings?
Since the UK's Food Regulations came into effect in 2014, takeaways and restaurants are only required to let customers know if any of the 14 most dangerous allergens - including peanuts, eggs, sesame and milk - are ingredients in their food. However, freshly handmade, non pre-packaged foods do not have to be individually labelled. The lack of requirement for non-packaged foods to contain warnings was ultimately what led to teenager Natasha's death, as the baguette she purchased from Pret did not come with any allergy warnings - despite containing sesame (one of the 14 most dangerous allergens' identified by the Food Regulations).
Who is liable when a reaction occurs?
Speaking about Natasha's death, Pret commented that there were signs in the fridge and at till points telling consumers with allergies to speak to a manager for advice or to see their allergen guide. This has created uncertainty as to what duty of care suppliers have.
At a minimum, what is clear is that all packaged foods sold must clearly state the presence of any of the 14 most dangerous allergens. While Pret had not breached the regulations, clear allergy warnings placed next to the baguette, specifying high-risk ingredients, could have saved Natasha's life. Many are now campaigning for the regulations to be tightened so more considerable efforts are made to provide allergy warnings for all food being sold - regardless of whether these are pre-packaged or not. The awareness this death has raised around appropriate labelling of food will also hopefully incentivise restaurants and cafes around the country to take greater steps towards improving warnings.
While small distributors and cafes may find it more difficult to accurately label allergens on the non-packaged goods - as these can be made differently every time, large chains such as Pret use the same production method every day across all of their stores. It should, therefore, be a simple process for warnings to be placed next to unpackaged goods, as it would be labelled on packaged foods.
Ultimately, there is an onus on both businesses and customers with allergies to take responsibility. While there are undoubtedly greater protections that can be introduced to reduce the risk to consumers, those who suffer from allergies should always raise their allergies to staff if no clear labelling is provided.
Contact our personal injury lawyers today
If you have suffered from an allergic reaction to food, which was either not adequately labelled or if a restaurant or fast good store failed to provide sufficient warning or information concerning allergens, you may have a claim. To discuss your specific circumstances, please call 0800 988 8082 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of our team will get back to you right away. We look forward to helping you get the compensation you deserve.