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People with allergies say food chains are ‘running scared’ after manager advises family to eat somewhere else

People with allergies say food chains are 'running scared' after manager advises family to eat somewhere else

For many mother and father, a morning of ice skating adopted by lunch is a simple approach to maintain the youngsters entertained because the Christmas holidays come to an in depth.

However for Alexa Baracaia, it’s an outing that wants to be deliberate meticulously.

Alexa’s son, eight-year-old Sidney, is allergic to egg, peanuts, nuts, sesame and lentils.

The journalist and allergy blogger is aware of to analysis the place is protected to eat, in addition to ringing up prematurely, talking to the manager and learning allergen booklets.

However when she visited Leon, a sequence she had beforehand thought-about “safe”, she was suggested by the manager to eat somewhere else.

Simply been informed by @leonrestaurants on The Strand *not* to eat there if our son’s allergies are “life-threatening”. He says it’s a ‘new policy’. What do you say about that @JohnV_LEON @HenryDimbleby? We’ve beforehand had nice service – now you determine you possibly can’t cater??? #allergy

— Allergy Mum UK (@foodallergyuk) January 7, 2019

“There are very few places that you can just walk off the street and get a meal when you’ve got allergies, but I was pretty confident that Leon could cater for us as they had done in the past,” she tells i.

“We walked in they usually’ve obtained new indicators up saying ‘we have allergens everywhere’.

“So I spoke to the manager and his first question, in front of my eight-year-old and five-year-old, was: is it life-threatening? I said, yes, they’re serious allergies and he said: ‘Then I suggest you’re probably better to go somewhere else.’ He said it was a new policy.”

‘It was shocking’

She says she discovered it upsetting.

“There are only a few locations that we will simply go to – we’re like donkeys, we stock bread and snacks round with us in all places we go, assuming that we gained’t discover one thing protected.

“So to discover a place that beforehand has been protected then ship us away and say you’re not welcome right here was surprising.

“I think a lot of businesses are running scared and they’re taking the wrong path – one that’s shrinking options for allergy sufferers instead of improving them.”

Leon responded to Alexa’s grievance, insisting that refusal of service isn’t a retailer coverage.

A letter from founder John Vincent adopted on the corporate web site, stating that each care is taken within the kitchen to forestall allergen cross-contamination, however that nothing can ever be 100 per cent protected.

“The idea that Leon could cause harm to one of our guests is horrifying,” the letter continued. “And we would therefore ask those of you with serious allergies to consider carefully whether you choose to dine with us.”

Authorized fears

Allergy victims say that that is turning into a standard chorus from restaurant chains that are “running scared” within the wake of the controversy over an allergy demise.

Fifteen-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died in 2016 after she consumed a Pret sandwich that had sesame baked into the dough.

Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, with their son Alex, outdoors West London Coroners Courtroom, following the conclusion of the inquest into the dying of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, from Fulham, who died after she fell unwell on a flight from London to Good after consuming a Pret A Manger sandwich at Heathrow Airport. (Photograph: PA)

Because the inquest final yr into Natasha’s dying, Setting Secretary Michael Gove has pledged to change allergen-labelling legal guidelines, with new laws – which the media has dubbed Natasha’s Regulation – within the works for this yr.

Pret has additionally taken steps to enhance the labelling of its recent food gadgets.

But individuals with allergies say that in some instances they really feel there’s now even much less readability round food labelling, with many shops erecting indicators that say they can’t assure any product is allergen-free, refusing service and even asking individuals to signal authorized disclaimers.

‘I felt I was being treated unfairly’

Gemma Evans, a TV presenter who suffers from a extreme nut allergy, says she has had three retailers recommend she shouldn’t eat their food because the Pret incident. “Each time it happened, I was really stumped,” she says.

“I felt frustrated and unfairly treated because of my allergy, but also unable to argue with a staff member who appeared to be taking my safety so seriously.”

Evans says she understands that eating places want to inform clients of the danger.

“Every time I’m informed: ‘We can’t assure…’, I all the time clarify: ‘I understand, thank you. All I’m asking is that the chef be made conscious in order that she or he can use totally different gloves/utensils.’

“Usually this is fine, but I do get the sense that some outlets have become more fearful of serving me recently. A restaurant once asked me to sign some sort of waiver before my main course was served. I felt like I was being asked to sign a licence to kill.”

Staying protected

In accordance to the Food Requirements Company, it’s the duty of a food enterprise to know which allergens are current within the meals they supply. Shoppers ought to:

  • Examine the menu on-line and name forward to speak about any allergy.
  • Be very clear and provides examples of the meals that make you sick.
  • In the event you don’t really feel the individual you’re talking to understands your wants, ask for the manager.
  • Ask how the food is dealt with and cooked, and whether or not there’s a probability of cross-contamination from cooking gear.
  • On arrival converse to your server or the manager. Affirm your earlier dialog with employees.
  • When you have any doubts, don’t eat there.

Blanket warnings

Itsu is amongst a number of chains beneath hearth for issuing blanket warnings that meals “contain allergens”, directing clients to seek the advice of an in-store allergen information or ask a member of employees for specifics.


Hello @ItsuOfficial I noticed these indicators in retailer in the present day. Is that this allergy labelling new? Bit involved how straightforward that is on your clients with allergies when in busy branches of Itsu. How does this “Contains allergens” assertion work?

— Mrs D (@GlutenFreeMrsD) January eight, 2019

“I find these signs both unhelpful and unwelcoming – these are fastfood places with large queues at lunchtime so not very practical for a customer with an allergy,” says Siân Drew, a coeliac with a nut allergy.

“I’m allergic to almonds and hazelnuts but when the outlet doesn’t promote dishes which include these nuts, is there a real danger to me?

“This type of blanket allergen labelling strikes me as an attempt for the outlet to cover themselves in the event of a subsequent allergic reaction by a customer and potential court case against them.”


new on the weblog After Pret, what subsequent for allergen labelling? Have you ever observed modifications in the best way your regular restaurant shows allergens and maybe asks clients about their…

— Mrs D (@GlutenFreeMrsD) December 14, 2018

Jemima Ferguson, group advertising director for Itsu, says the corporate goals for the very best degree of transparency on allergens.

“We element the 14 allergen warnings in seven totally different locations throughout our eating places. Employees can print out allergens for any recipe on the until level.

“For customers looking for quick answers, our allergen matrix is present by every fridge and details the 14 most common allergens. This information can also be found against every recipe on the website.”

Most busy lunch chains take cross-contamination measures, however warn that there are dangers (Photograph: Getty)

The ‘free-from’ fad

Carly Talbot, a coeliac, says she believes it’s a symptom of companies capitalising on the faddier aspect of “free from”, whereas excluding these with critical well being considerations.

“Rather than adding specific labels that help me to make an informed choice, the ‘may contain’ statements and directions to ask a member of staff or consult online lists makes it very hard to quickly chose a product I consider safe,” she says.

“I think they misunderstand how most of us with allergies make decisions – I understand about the potential problems with shared kitchens, but I need clear and specific information to make a decision about what meets my own safety criteria.”


It’s because as soon as let loose from its plastic wrapping #glutenfree bread imparts a selective gravitational pull solely in kitchen environments, drawing in invisible vaporised gluten molecules. That may be the one rationalization for this sorry cobblers, proper @podfooduk?

— Alex Gazzola (@HealthJourno) January eight, 2019

A spokesperson for Leon advised i: “All our teams receive extensive training on how to manage allergen separation and everyone understands the severity of the smallest mix up. It is very rare, but it is a reality that mistakes can happen.”

Leon’s assertion

We don’t consider it’s unattainable to say which meals are protected to eat in our eating places.

We have now all the time taken the security of our visitors extremely critically, and up to date terrible occasions have rightly refocused the business on the essential significance of how the presence of allergens is communicated in eating places.

We do have strict and in depth processes, procedures and audits in place to forestall cross-contamination, each with suppliers and in our personal kitchens.

However that, when recent components are in the identical kitchen there’s the smallest probability that an allergen within the constructing might find yourself in a dish it wasn’t meant to be in.

All our groups obtain in depth coaching on how to handle allergen separation and everybody understands the severity of the smallest combine up. It is extremely uncommon, however it’s a actuality that errors can occur.

Whereas we are working extremely exhausting to forestall any errors, we care an excessive amount of concerning the security of our friends not to make them conscious of the dangers – nevertheless small these dangers are and nevertheless onerous we attempt to shield towards them – of the allergens that are current in our kitchens. That’s the reason we are offering clients with as a lot info as we will and we’ll proceed to achieve this. 

Many individuals within the allergy group say that there are a number of chains getting it proper, singing the praises of Pizza Categorical and Nandos particularly.


Now see THIS is an #allergy signal that doesn’t upset or offend me. It’s affordable and it doesn’t say ‘everything may be unsafe’ or ‘ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK 🧟‍♂️’ @CostaCoffee #allergens #14allergens

— Allergy Mum UK (@foodallergyuk) January 10, 2019

When i visited a Leon department this week, a big allergen warning signal sat on the counter and employees have been sporting badges that invited clients to ask about allergies. On being requested a few specific dish, the server consulted the booklet and confirmed that the product was protected. All in-store signage was additionally labelled with particular allergens.

Selecting to keep house

A survey carried out by the Food Requirements Company final September discovered that greater than half of younger individuals with a food allergy prevented consuming out because of their situation. Solely 14 per cent felt assured asking for allergen info when consuming out.

“All food businesses have a legal obligation to provide safe food,” says Paul Tossell, head of the Allergy and Intolerance Scheme on the FSA.

“They must know what’s in their food and manage cross-contamination appropriately. They should also let customers know when the risk of cross-contamination is unavoidable.”

Alternative for food chains

Michael Walker, head of the Workplace of the Authorities Chemist, says food retailers ought to view clients with food allergies as a chance to assist individuals, in addition to build up their reputations.

“The food industry is about people, good service, high reputation, and the vast majority want to behave responsibly and are anxious to avoid causing harm,” he says.

“Hiding behind legalities or a ‘head in the sand’ attitude will only result in the outlet shedding customers.”

Walker says he’s longing for a step change in allergy labelling.

“We are lucky that the UK FSA is a world chief in food allergy. However we’d like to work to ensure that it stays that approach.

“Natasha’s Law will need to be policed and the FSA needs support to ensure it and its local authority colleagues have the resources to do so.”