safefood works with environmental health officers and the catering industry to address food allergy hazard - NI

Up to 3% of people on the island of Ireland have a food allergy

Thursday 30, October. safefood is hosting a one day conference to launch a comprehensive training initiative to help protect consumers who suffer from a food allergy. The training which is the first of its kind will help Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) and Catering Lecturers to increase awareness of food allergen control in the catering industry.

Food allergy is an emerging hazard for the catering industry and it is estimated that up to 3% of the total population are living with a food allergy1. Research in Northern Ireland highlighted 1.8% of school age children had a peanut allergy in 2007 compared to 0.6% in 19892.

The safefood training initiative will support EHOs who regulate the operation of food premises and catering lecturers who train future caterers, by highlighting that allergens should be recognised as a food safety hazard and dealt with like other food safety hazards.

Dr. Cliodhna Foley Nolan, Director of Human Health and Nutrition, safefood, said: “We understand that eating outside the home can be problematic for consumers with food allergies as it can be very difficult for them to avoid food that they are allergic to. Major allergens like dairy products and nuts are often ‘hidden’ ingredients in foods and there is always potential for cross-contamination. This training initiative is a positive step towards providing consumers with safe options when eating food prepared in a catering setting.”

“Consumers who think they may be allergic to certain foods should have this medically verified, seek expert advice and follow that guidance. Otherwise, they could avoid foods to which they are not allergic, or accidentally consume foods to which they are allergic”, added Dr. Foley-Nolan.

The keynote address at the conference will be given by Dr. Trevor Brown, consultant paediatrician at the Ulster Hospital, Belfast. "Complete avoidance of the culprit food or foods remains the gold standard of management, and we as professionals must do everything we can to ensure that avoidable accidental reactions should not occur," commented Dr. Brown.

Dr. James McIntosh, Toxicologist, safefood, said: “The training initiative being launched today builds on a successful cross border pilot project for EHOs conducted last year, which highlighted the need for an all-island programme. This is the first time that training for EHOs and third level catering lecturers will be provided on a comprehensive all-island basis. The conference will provide the latest, in-depth information on the issue, including the impacts of food allergy and perspectives on food allergen management by a range of distinguished speakers.”

The conference takes place today, (Thursday 30th October) at the Grand Hotel, Malahide, Dublin.


For further information please contact

Susie Rea ( or Kathy Doyle ( at Smarts on 028 90395500
Dermot Moriarty, safefood
+353 1 448 0600


  1. The prevalence of food allergy in the island of Ireland population is estimated at between 2 and 3% based on UK figures quoted in the Food Standards Agency document, ‘Provision of allergen information on non pre-packed foods’ (January 2008), and based on the 2002 population census of the Republic and Northern Ireland. The prevalence of food allergies among the population on the island of Ireland population has yet to be investigated.
  2. safefood synergy project / NI catering survey 2007

Notes to editors

  • The difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance is that the immune system is involved in a food allergic, but not a food intolerant, reaction. Coeliac condition is sometimes classified as a food intolerance although the immune system is also implicated in the symptoms (not in the same way as in a food allergy). The training programme will ultimately enable the catering trade to assist customers who may have a food allergy, intolerance or coeliac condition.
  • The pilot training programme involved Environmental Health Officers in the Southern and Western Health & Social Services Board areas in Northern Ireland and the North Eastern and North Western HSE areas in the Republic of Ireland. The pilot was funded by safefood and the European Union INTEREG IIIA programme through CAWT (Co-operation and Working Together).
  • Conference speakers include Dr. Trevor Brown of the Ulster Hospital, Belfast, Dr. Rebecca Knibb, University of Derby, Clodagh Crehan of the FSAI, Deborah Griffin, Senior Dietician, Waterford Regional Hospital and Maureen Paul, Chairperson of Allergy NI, Adrian Holden of the Restaurants Association of Ireland and Karen Martin Newman of Hygiene Audit Systems, UK.
  • Conference registration starts at 9:00 am on Thursday 30th October at the Grand Hotel, Malahide, County Dublin.