The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is to meet to discuss further options in is it’s drive to make operators list allergens on menus.
The meeting, taking place on December 13 will review the progress made on the FSA’s Food Hypersensitivity (FHS) programme and ask board members to provide a view on the recommended approaches to the provision of information in the non-prepacked sector.
The meeting follows a vociferous campaign by the family of Owen Carey, from East Sussex, who tragically died after unwittingly eating dairy at a London burger bar in 2017.
Owen had been celebrating his 18th birthday when he had a fatal reaction to food ordered in a Byron burger bar.
The teen, who had a dairy allergy, had ordered chicken, unaware it had been marinated in buttermilk.
Owen’s father Paul Carey has been campaigning to see the introduction of Owen’s Law to make the listing of allergens on menus a legal requirement. Owen’s family want to build on Natasha’s Law, which dealt with the ingredients and allergy listings on pre-packaged takeaway food.
Natasha’s Law showed that the UK’s allergen laws needed reform, but it left an uneven situation where people taking away pe-packaged food have more protection than those eating in restaurants.
A petition launched after Owen’s tragic death gained almost 13,000 signatures and led to a debate in Parliament earlier this year.
The meeting will ask if the board agrees with the proposal to “create a presumption for those supplying non-prepacked food, that they will provide both written information and a conversation, and whether it should bring forward guidance without legislation in the short term, and take a decision at a later date whether to advise government to make menu labelling a legal requirement.
Owen’s farther told the BBC he is waiting with “bated breath” for the policy decision in the coming days.
Papers published ahead of the FSA meeting to discuss Owen’s Law said: “People with a food hypersensitivity need to be able to make informed decisions on where and what to eat. Our evidence indicates that there is room for improvement in the current information flows, and written information is a key part of that.”
It plans to discuss whether allergen information must be provided either in written format, such as on a menu, or orally from front of house staff or in both formats.
“If an operator chooses not to provide written information there must be signposting to direct the consumer to where this information can be found, such as asking a member of staff,” suggest the papers.
“We welcome the board’s views on the proposals for the provision of allergy information in the non-prepacked sector: to set a strong expectation of both written information and a conversation; and to do so in a way that drives a common approach and standardisation as far as possible; while retaining sufficient flexibility that all businesses are willing, able and supported to comply; without the need for additional legislation at this time.”