The Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) is calling for culture change and a review of allergen labelling legislation for food items.
Teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died in July 2016 from anaphylaxis caused by sesame. The recently completed inquest heard that an artichoke and olive tapenade baguette, bought at Pret A Manger at Heathrow Airport, and which included sesame as part of its recipe, was the cause of death.
Pret A Manger relied on UK law that permits no allergen labelling on products that are not prepacked, or which are prepacked on the premises where they are sold.
Instead of labelling on the packaging itself, it is permitted to prompt consumers to ask about allergens. This is done by ‘signposting’ with a label attached to the food, or on an easily seen notice where the intending purchaser chooses their food.
The business must indicate that the details can be obtained by asking a member of staff and ensure that allergen information is available and easily accessible to the consumer.
A ‘prepacked food’, legally refers to a food item which cannot be altered without opening or changing its packaging, as opposed to foods packed on the sales premises at the customer’s request or prepacked for direct sale.
IFST has stated it welcomes Pret’s commitment to meaningful changes in allergen labelling, announced by CEO Clive Schlee, and supports Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove’s intentions to urgently consider the situation after the coroner called on the Government to examine labelling rules, specifically on whether large businesses should be able to benefit from regulations, allowing reduced food labelling on products made in shops.
However, IFST has stated it is calling for a change of culture in businesses, regulation and enforcement, so that people with allergies can readily find the information they need to keep safe.
Sterling Crew, chair of IFST’s Food Safety Group, stated: “I believe when businesses are fully complying with the regulations, and such tragic cases still occur, the law needs to be reviewed.”