Staff at some of the UK’s leading UK restaurant and café chains including Starbucks, Costa, Pizza Hut, Frankie & Benny’s and Nando’s are giving out incorrect allergy advice to customers, according to a BBC Watchdog investigation.
The investigation revealed that 5 of the 30 establishments they visited gave their undercover reporters unclear or incorrect information, some of which the investigation says could have proved dangerous.
By law cafes, restaurants and takeaways should be able to give customers clear information about which dishes contain allergens, however according to investigators none of the outlets visited had allergens listed on menus or labels, with diners reliant on staff being able to provide accurate information.
One example revealed that a staff member said an Eggs Royale dish did not contain celery, despite the group’s website stating that it did. The BBC said the employee did not consult kitchen staff or a product information guide.
In another example a reporter was asked to agree to terms and conditions that state the chain can never guarantee that a dish is completely free of any allergen – except for gluten, seving staff told the reporter the form “saves our back”.
PizzaExpress was the only chain to give reporters accurate advice in each of the five branches visited by the Watchdog Live team.
Watchdog Live presenter Steph McGovern, said: “Five out of 30 places got it wrong which, for some of the biggest names in the business, just isn’t good enough. They’re relying on staff getting it right every time, and when they don’t, the results can be fatal. But there’s a simple solution that would save lives – printing allergy information on labels and menus.”
Tony Lewis, head of policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, added: “Five is a significant number and if you scale it up nationally, it becomes a very, very large number indeed. And that’s worrying, that there’s businesses out there that will be asked by people with allergies for information, and they’re not being given the right information or they’re being misled in some instances. That’s really scary and that’s what bothers me a lot.”