To mark Allergy Awareness Week 2016, Cheshire West and Chester Council is reminding food business in the borough about rules on allergens which went live in December 2014.

The changes in the rules meant that all food businesses in Cheshire West must inform customers when any of the 14 specific allergenic ingredients including peanuts, egg and milk are present in the food they make or serve.

Results from a joint FSA and Allergy UK survey of consumers shows the situation is improving for those with allergies. In fact, only 16% reported no difference in the provisions of allergen information when eating out.

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While this is great news, there is still more work to be done. Even though 52% of consumers surveyed felt more confident when asking for this information, since the new laws were introduced, many still experience negative attitudes when eating outside of the home.

Allergic consumers felt that businesses need to:

Take time to understand the importance of why food allergic consumers make such requests

Make necessary checks to ensure food is safe

Have more confidence when handling allergens in the kitchen

Not take an overly cautious approach to refuse service to those with allergies.

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Some felt that a handful of businesses did not know what allergies are or take them seriously. Food allergies can cause life-threatening reactions and the numbers of people with this condition are growing.

The primary cause of food allergy deaths in the UK is due to allergic reactions caused when food is prepared and consumed outside of the home where allergenic ingredients have been used and not declared.

In total, around a third of those with a food allergy have suffered a reaction in the last year when eating out of the home. The vast majority of these (25 percent) took place in a restaurant or cafe, with 9% being a result of takeaway food.

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With around two million allergic consumers in the UK, it is easy to see why having the correct allergy information is good for business. Food outlets could be missing out on extra custom by not providing clear and accurate allergen information about the food they sell or serve.

There is also a lot of information on the FSA’s website www.food.gov.uk/allergen-resources to help businesses with these rules.

Cllr Mark Henesy, Cabinet member for environment and community, said: “There is no cure for food allergies or intolerances, so the only way for people to manage the condition is to avoid the food that makes them ill. That is why providing accurate food allergen labelling and information is potentially life-saving.

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“Our food safety officers have been doing all they can to support businesses since the new rules came in, and now we have our new GET 5 food business advice scheme.

“The GET 5 food businesses advice service provides information on all aspects of running a food business and food safety, including allergens, and can ensure a business gets a top level 5 food hygiene rating.”

The top 14 allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, cereals containing gluten, eggs, crustaceans, molluscs, fish, soya, sesame, sulphur dioxide/sulphites, celery, mustard and lupin.

More information is available at www.food.gov.uk/allergy and free downloadable resources can be found on www.food.gov.uk/allergen-resources