RSPH’s latest investigation focuses on whether correct food allergy information is available in takeaway outlets. Since December 2014, takeaways have joined other food outlets in being legally obliged to provide information on whether any of the main 14 allergens are present in their food. Two million people have allergies in the UK, with 5000 of them a year needing hospital treatment for an allergic reaction and ten dying of food allergy related anaphylaxis.
Mystery Diners investigated food allergy information availability
Throughout June the RSPH conducted mystery dining research in 65 takeaway shops, primarily in London, across the top ten most popular sorts of takeaway: Chinese, Indian, Fish and Chips, Pizza, Fried Chicken, Kebab, Thai, Burger, Sushi and Italian. In each takeaway they enquired about a meal asking three questions:
- Could they tell us whether three of the main allergens were present in the meal?
- Did they appear to have a record of allergens in their food?
- Was it clear how a customer could get hold of this information?
The RSPH found that of the takeaways researched:
- 54 percent were unable to tell us whether one of the 14 allergens was present in the food.
- Four in five were not keeping a record of the allergens in their food and only one in 10 were able to actually produce their record when asked.
- 70 percent did not signpost where a customer could find information on the allergens in the food.
Takeaway operators need to ensure staff are properly trained to manage the risks from allergens Many of the problems in communicating information would be solved with a better understanding of food allergens amongst all members of staff. There are clearly serious gaps in knowledge and understanding in the sector, but also an enthusiasm to learn: in one study, 6 in 10 food handlers in takeaway restaurants expressed interest in future food allergy training.8 This is not only vital for the safety of consumers but represents a commercial opportunity for takeaway operators to secure the business of growing numbers of food allergic customers.
Food handlers should complete high quality training in the control of food allergens. RSPH, among others, has developed a Level 2 Award in Identifying and Controlling Food Allergy Risks to meet this need and empower food handlers to be confident in dealing safely with requests. We also call for providers of basic and advanced food hygiene certificates to integrate allergen management modules into courses.
The RSPH investigation clearly shows that takeaway owners and employees are in need of proper allergy training such as the RSPH level 2 award in identifying and controlling allergy risks.
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This article was prepared by the RSPH and to read the report please click here