Eating out, the good the bad and the ugly!

The Food Standards Agency, in conjunction with Allergy UK have recently carried out a UK wide survey of those suffering a food allergy to gather their views, experiences and opinions of eating out in the UK since the new EU food labelling regulations came into force.

The research clearly shows that more is being done across the industry as a whole, with 83% of respondents stating that they had seen an increase in measures designed to make life easier, such as staff actively asking in the kitchen and better menu information. 58% of respondents felt that their overall experience of eating out had improved with 52% being reassured by the fact that they felt confident when asking a member of staff.

Taking gluten free, there has been an 89% rise in gluten free terminology and wheat free options are up 80%. Dairy free is yet to see such favourable treatment, despite dairy being a more prevalent allergen that gluten.

Unfortunately, 46% felt that nothing had changed or that their dining experiences had worsened When drilling down into the reasons for the continued or worsened dining experiences a significant number are linked to front line staff which could so easily be avoided.

  • 41% felt staff were in a rush and that they didn’t check allergen information properly
  • 69% stated that staff didn’t understand the severity of an allergy sufficiently
  • 68% claimed that staff appeared to have a lack of knowledge about ingredients and substitutes
  • 64% have experienced over caution with the use of blanket ‘may contain’ statements.

It is understandable that venues wish to be cautious and might feel that the use of blanket ‘may contain’ statements help the consumer, but if such statements can be avoided it gives FreeFrom diners the option to review menu items and see what could actually be removed to make it a suitable dish for them.

Such apparent problems in understanding and communication may, in part, have led to the 25% of respondents having had an allergic reaction whilst eating out with 6% being admitted to hospital.

The outcome of someone becoming unwell as a result of incorrect allergy information should be to report it to their local authority who would then carry out an inspection.  Something no venue wants, however the reactions of the respondents vary, with only 25% stating they would report it to the FSA and only 15% to their local authority.  However, 30% would tell other allergen sufferers to avoid the venue and 23% would complain about the venue on social media.  None of the outcomes being positive for any venue. On the reverse, allergy sufferers or FreeFrom diners are equally likely to tell their peers about positive dining experiences and would also write their positive reviews on social media.

There is so much positive change happening, lets make the remaining 46% feel happy and confident about their eating out experiences!

To read the full report please click here

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