Dining out: The challenge for those with a Food Allergy or Food Intolerance

Date: 2013

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Introduction

allergy report coverA safefood / Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland survey.

The food allergen aspects of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and the Council on the provision of food information to consumers (EU-FIC) came into effect in December of 2014 when the obligation for caterers to have allergen information proactively available for their customers became a legal requirement. This was designed to ameliorate the risks to consumers with food sensitivity (food allergy, intolerance or coeliac disease). In advance of this, safefood, in conjunction with the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland, conducted a survey of these consumers to ascertain their experiences when dining out. Questionnaires were sent to the members of Allergy NI and Anaphylaxis Ireland, the primary non-governmental support organisations at the time for those with food allergy in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, respectively.

The survey results highlighted both legal and economic imperatives for caterers to ensure proper control of food allergens on their premises. It would be erroneous to assume that those with food allergy or intolerance never eat out: this survey shows they are no different when compared to the general population, despite the increased risks and challenges. The survey highlighted the need to ensure that frontline staff are sufficiently trained and updated in all aspects of food allergen control. Caterers need to be not just aware of food sensitivities, but knowledgeable about them. The caterer must work with their food sensitive customers to safeguard their health and ensure a safe and pleasurable dining out experience.

The results are presented in two reports – one for Northern Ireland and a second for respondents from the Republic of Ireland. Respondent profiles, allergy spectra and dining out experiences in both jurisdictions were remarkably similar. Both reports list the key learnings from the surveys which are important to those working in the catering industry who have to implement the EU-FIC.