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Support for motion calling for better allergen labelling

22 May 2024

A campaign which calls for better labelling of allergens on restaurant menus has been endorsed by Cambridgeshire County Council.

The move – which would identify allergen information at the point of ordering without the customer having to ask – was approved by a meeting of the full council.

It followed a motion from Councillor Geoffrey Seeff, in which he called on the council’s Chief Executive to write to the Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries to bring forward legislation embodying the campaign’s proposals.

The motion urged the council’s Public Health and Trading Standards teams - and environmental health teams in the district councils - to raise awareness within Cambridgeshire’s hospitality sector of the risks to allergy sufferers of not having access to reliable written information on the allergens used in prepared food.

Cllr Seeff told the council that there were 14 known allergens posing the highest risk - often contained in non pre-packed foods - that can cause anaphylaxis when eaten by people who were intolerant to them.

“Reactions can range from mild discomfort in the mouth and throat, to nausea and vomiting, skin itching, rash or swelling and, in extreme cases, swelling of the tongue and the airways causing respiratory difficulties. Unless appropriate medication such as adrenaline, oxygen, and intravenous fluids are administered within a short period after severe anaphylactic shock, the outcome may be fatal,” he added.

Council’s attention was drawn to the sad case of 18-year-old Owen Carey who died after being misinformed about the allergen content of a burger and the motion aligns with his family’s campaign for legislation to amend the 2011 food regulations - Owen’s Law.

Cllr Seeff’s motion noted that while restaurants, cafes or other catering outlets serving food prepared in their own kitchens are legally bound to indicate where information can be found on the allergens contained in the ingredients used in their recipes and to provide such information if requested, the way in which that information is presented is left to their discretion.

Cllr Seeff said the best food businesses presented comprehensive written statements on allergen content and trained their staff to discuss the implications with customers.

“I am delighted that the council agreed to adopt this motion. It will go a long way to introducing a consistency of information across the hospitality sector which hopefully will minimise the dangers caused by allergenic reactions which many customers may be unaware of unless they are told. We are the first council in the country to take this stance, and I hope other authorities will follow Cambridgeshire’s example,” he added.