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Editor’s Viewpoint: Stark Reminder on Food Allergies

peanutIt is very likely the starkest reminder to date that unless we take food allergies seriously we will face a jail sentence. That is the tragic and needless death of a customer who died after consuming a dish containing peanuts, despite warning the restaurant of his allergy and requesting a nut-free dish.

A terrible and tragic case, which has resulted in a manslaughter conviction and a jail sentence of four years. Martin Goldman, chief crown prosecutor with CPS Yorkshire and Humberside could not have put it any plainer when he said: “If you ignore your responsibilities and regulations and put lives at real risk then we will not hesitate to prosecute.”

There is no doubt that the rise in food intolerance and allergies amongst the public has had a severe impact on the hospitality industry as a whole, and readers may recall that we published an article at the end of April from the food standards agency which stated that 25% of people with food allergies suffer a reaction when eating out. The study revealed that people with allergies still report a number of other problems too. More than two-thirds (69%) have experienced staff not understanding the severity of an allergy, and how easily a mistake can cause a reaction. A similar number (68%) have seen staff with a lack of knowledge of what’s on the menu or in the food – including staff confusing eggs with dairy, or assuming that the customer was asking for gluten-free rather than avoiding lupin (a grain commonly used in place of wheat). Over half of allergic consumers (56%) said they have been made to feel like an inconvenience due to their allergy.

I think this tragic case really does put the case for compliance in the spotlight. I have to say that in my days when I worked the chain outlets, in the hotel industry and in pub chains, we regularly relied on head office, and ongoing training courses to cover changes and legislation, and of course consumer changes too. It’s not so easy in the independent sector, there is no head office to rely on, so once again we very much hope to bring some industry specialist knowledge on this topic in our forthcoming issue. Once again would be very interested in any views that you have on the subject.

I would also urge you to take part in our online referendum poll. I think we are to date the first hospitality publisher to include a referendum poll, and I very much hope it will be an indication on how the hospitality views our position in the EU. So, please vote – there is no tracking we do not get any information other than what you see on the screen!

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