As research finds more than half (58%) of allergy sufferers have had their lives put at risk by restaurant or takeaway staff, law firm Slater and Gordon is calling on businesses to have better allergen control. Last year, the high-profile tragic deaths of Megan Lee and Natasha Ednan-Laperouse (both 15), highlighted the need for tighter food sanitation restrictions within outlets that prepare or serve food to the public. Both were victims of lax attention to allergen advice either not being present, or being ignored entirely.
The new study of 1,000 food allergy sufferers found that 30% of those with allergies said they had suffered a reaction more than once after eating food from a restaurant, takeaway or other eatery which they had deemed safe.
Shane Smith, a lawyer at Slater and Gordon which commissioned the research, said: “These results are astonishing. Most of us have a friend or loved one with a potentially fatal allergy, yet so many restaurants and takeaways still seem to regard it as being of little importance.
“Comments like “it can’t be that bad” and “it won’t hurt you this once” show just how much work is still needed to educate owners and staff about the very real dangers.
“For those with an allergy it is not a choice but a serious condition which could kill them if ignored”.
Megan’s parents are calling for greater awareness by medical professionals after being told their daughter’s allergies were “mild”. They are also campaigning for better allergen control including more frequent spot checks of eating establishments, closer monitoring of the ‘out of five’ hygiene rating certificates and mandatory insurance to protect those affected.
The takeaway Megan ordered from was still displaying the top rating it had been awarded in 2013, more than three years earlier, and had also failed to inform the local authority of a change of ownership, which should have prompted a fresh inspection.
Astonishingly, 58% said they had experienced negative treatment including being ignored, not having their allergies taken seriously and even being accused of being ‘fussy’. 42% of those affected admitted it has made them avoid eating our or ordering food in.
Shane Smith added: “Being able to order a takeaway or go out for a meal is something most of us take for granted, but for those with a food allergy it can mean the difference between life and death.
“Anything that makes the experience safer must be welcomed and this research shows that it is badly needed.
“One change we would like to see is for public liability insurance to be made mandatory for all establishments preparing and serving food to the public with strict conditions to encourage them to take allergen control seriously.
“In recent years we have seen a number of high-profile cases in which people have died due to ignorance around this topic. Protecting the public must be the top priority before any more lives are lost”.