If you have food allergies or intolerance, eating out is often difficult. In this guest post from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), we find out how the times are changing with the introduction of new allergen rules.
Having a food allergy or intolerance can be horrible. I live with one, so I know what I’m talking about. It’s also why I have a strong interest in food labelling. Good labelling ensures I have the information I need to stay safe and healthy. The alternative to that is a debilitating episode if I eat something ‘wrong’.
I joined the FSA’s Food Allergy Branch in 2008. Since then, I’ve been working to see how we can help make a positive difference to people living with food allergies and intolerances. During the past two-and-a-half years we’ve been focusing on the new EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation. On 13 December 2014, this regulation introduces new rules on allergen labelling for prepacked foods and those not prepacked, such as meals in a café, school or hospital.
The work has involved identifying projects to develop guidance, advice, training and tools to make it easy for enforcement officers and businesses to understand and comply with the new rules. Funnily, some interesting issues have been thrown up along the way. How to deal with ‘pop up’ restaurants was just one of them!
Raising awareness of food allergies
We’re fortunate in the UK that almost everyone wants to do the right thing when it comes to food allergy. Almost everyone wants to stop people from becoming ill or, in the worst case, dying. I was able to call on others with an interest in allergy to develop their own projects to enable us to share messages. And understanding how people are affected by their allergies has helped inform our work as you’ll see in this video:
Allergy Awareness Week in April provided an excellent focus. Social media proved to be a brilliant tool. Those with a passion for this issue are not inhibited by their views! This resulted in lots of lively social media conversations. But it also helped to remind me of why I am doing this job – to protect the consumer.
Our current campaign is about to take off in a big way today. I’m on tenterhooks because I really want to see these new regulations improve the lives of people who live with allergies.
There is no denying that the very subject of allergy and intolerances is controversial at the best of times. Take a look at the comments page of most allergy related posts. Each has its fair share of those who understand and support the cause. But there are many who think we are ‘faking it’ or making ‘lifestyle choices’; and others who write us off as being a nuisance.
The new allergy laws are a positive step for consumers. We’re keen to know how the changes will make a difference to you and your lifestyle.
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is by Chun-Han Chan, a member of the Food Allergy Board at the FSA. All opinions expressed here are Chun-Han’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.