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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 solution to maintain the youngsters entertained because the Christmas holidays come to an in depth.

However for Alexa Baracaia, it’s an outing that must 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 suitable for eating, in addition to ringing up prematurely, chatting with the supervisor and learning allergen booklets.

However when she visited Leon, a sequence she had beforehand thought-about “protected”, she was suggested by the supervisor to eat some place else.

Simply been informed by @leonrestaurants on The Strand *not* to eat there if our son’s allergic reactions are “life-threatening”. He says it’s a ‘new coverage’. 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 only a few locations you can simply stroll off the road and get a meal once you’ve acquired allergic reactions, however I used to be fairly assured that Leon might cater for us as that they had achieved up to now,” she tells i.

“We walked in they usually’ve received new indicators up saying ‘we now have allergens in all places’.

“So I spoke to the supervisor and his first query, in entrance of my eight-year-old and five-year-old, was: is it life-threatening? I stated, sure, they’re critical allergic reactions and he stated: ‘Then I recommend you’re in all probability higher to go some other place.’ He stated it was a brand new coverage.”

‘It was surprising’

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 all over the place 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 feel a number of companies are operating scared they usually’re taking the mistaken path – one which’s shrinking choices for allergy victims as an alternative of enhancing 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 stop allergen cross-contamination, however that nothing can ever be 100 per cent protected.

“The concept Leon might trigger hurt to certainly one of our visitors is horrifying,” the letter continued. “And we might subsequently ask these of you with critical allergic reactions to think about rigorously whether or not you select to dine with us.”

Authorized fears

Allergy victims say that that is turning into a standard chorus from restaurant chains which are “operating 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 ailing 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 vary 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 meals gadgets.

But individuals with allergic reactions say that in some instances they really feel there’s now even much less readability round meals 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 used to be being handled 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 meals because the Pret incident. “Every time it occurred, I used to be actually stumped,” she says.

“I felt annoyed and unfairly handled due to my allergy, but in addition unable to argue with a employees member who seemed to be taking my security so significantly.”

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

“Each time I’m advised: ‘We will’t assure…’, I all the time clarify: ‘I perceive, thanks. All I’m asking is that the chef be made conscious in order that she or he can use totally different gloves/utensils.’

“Often that is high-quality, however I do get the sense that some retailers have turn out to be extra terrified of serving me lately. A restaurant as soon as requested me to signal some kind of waiver earlier than my essential course was served. I felt like I used to be being requested to signal a licence to kill.”

Staying protected

Based on the Meals Requirements Company, it’s the duty of a meals enterprise to know which allergens are current within the meals they supply. Shoppers ought to:

  • Verify the menu on-line and name forward to speak about any allergy.
  • Be very clear and provides examples of the meals that make you unwell.
  • When you don’t really feel the individual you’re chatting with understands your wants, ask for the supervisor.
  • Ask how the meals 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 supervisor. Affirm your earlier dialog with employees.
  • When you’ve got any doubts, don’t eat there.

Blanket warnings

Itsu is amongst a number of chains beneath hearth for issuing blanket warnings that meals “include 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 at the moment. Is that this allergy labelling new? Bit involved how straightforward that is on your clients with allergic reactions when in busy branches of Itsu. How does this “Accommodates allergens” assertion work?

— Mrs D (@GlutenFreeMrsD) January eight, 2019

“I discover these indicators each unhelpful and unwelcoming – these are fastfood locations with giant queues at lunchtime so not very sensible for a buyer 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 sort of blanket allergen labelling strikes me as an try for the outlet to cowl themselves within the occasion of a subsequent allergic response by a buyer and potential courtroom case towards 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 patrons in search of fast solutions, our allergen matrix is current by each fridge and particulars the 14 commonest allergens. This info can be discovered towards each recipe on the web site.”

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.

“Quite than including particular labels that assist me to make an knowledgeable selection, the ‘might include’ statements and instructions to ask a member of employees or seek the advice of on-line lists makes it very onerous to shortly selected a product I contemplate protected,” she says.

“I feel they misunderstand how most of us with allergic reactions make selections – I perceive concerning the potential issues with shared kitchens, however I want clear and particular info to decide about what meets my very own security standards.”


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

Leon’s assertion

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

We now have all the time taken the security of our visitors extremely critically, and up to date terrible occasions have rightly refocused the business on the important 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 stop cross-contamination, each with suppliers and in our personal kitchens.

However that, when recent elements 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 the best way 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’re working extremely onerous to stop any errors, we care an excessive amount of concerning the security of our visitors to not make them conscious of the dangers – nevertheless small these dangers are and nevertheless onerous we attempt to shield towards them – of the allergens which might be current in our kitchens. That’s the reason we’re offering clients with as a lot info as we will and we’ll proceed to take action. 

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 ‘the whole lot could also 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 allergic reactions. 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 remain house

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

“All meals companies have a authorized obligation to offer protected meals,” says Paul Tossell, head of the Allergy and Intolerance Scheme on the FSA.

“They need to know what’s of their meals and handle cross-contamination appropriately. They need to additionally let clients know when the danger of cross-contamination is unavoidable.”

Alternative for meals chains

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

“The meals business is about individuals, good service, excessive status, and the overwhelming majority need to behave responsibly and are anxious to keep away from inflicting hurt,” he says.

“Hiding behind legalities or a ‘head within the sand’ angle will solely outcome within the outlet shedding clients.”

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

“We’re lucky that the UK FSA is a world chief in meals allergy. However we have to work to ensure it stays that method.

“Natasha’s Regulation will have to be policed and the FSA wants help to make sure it and its native authority colleagues have the assets to take action.”