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Food safety & food allergy claims

If you have suffered an allergic reaction from a food product which was either inadequately labelled or if a restaurant or takeaway store failed to provide sufficient warning or information concerning allergens, you may have a legal claim. 

The UK has one of the highest incidents of allergic reactions worldwide. Allergic conditions have significantly increased over recent decades and many consider we are experiencing an “allergy epidemic”. Adequate allergy warnings on food products, in restaurants and takeaway stores are therefore crucial to ensure consumer safety. 
 
Michelle Victor, head of the Food Safety team at Leigh Day represents a number of allergy sufferers who have found themselves in life threatening situations as a result of deficiencies in food safety practices. 

Allergy symptoms

An allergic reaction occurs when an individual’s immune system mistakenly perceives an allergen as a threat and responds to eliminate the threat. The most common type of allergic reaction is an IgE-mediated food allergy.

Symptoms associated with this type of reaction include:
 
  • Tingling and / or itching in and around the mouth and / or throat;
  • Abdominal cramps, pain and / or digestive problems; 
  • Skin irritation and / or inflammation
  • Swelling; 
  • Difficulty swallowing; and 
  • Sneezing and / or coughing. 

In more severe instances of allergic reaction, a systemic reaction such as anaphylaxis may occur. The initial symptoms of anaphylaxis mirror those listed above, however anaphylaxis can escalate rapidly and lead to the following life threatening symptoms:
 
  • Severe breathing difficulties;
  • A rapid heartbeat;
  • A sudden drop in blood pressure; and 
  • Unconsciousness. 

Anaphylaxis can be life threatening and it is therefore vital that contact is made with emergency services imminently. Without treatment, a severe allergic reaction can have a long term effect on a person’s life can be fatal.
 
Food allergies are often confused with food intolerances. A distinction between the two is important because an intolerance is slow process causing digestive disturbance whist an allergic reaction can be triggered instantaneously and exacerbate rapidly. 

Food allergy law 

The Food Information for Consumers Regulation came into force in December 2014 allows Local Authorities to enforce the European Food Information to Consumers Regulation No 1169/2011 (FIC). The Regulation was designed to improve the safety of allergy sufferers when eating out. It stipulates that where a product contains any of the 14 most common allergens (eggs, milk, fish, crustaceans, molluscs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, cereals containing gluten, soya, celery and celeriac, mustard, lupus, sulphur dioxide, and sulphates), details of such allergens must appear on packaging and be clearly labelled. This law applies for:
 
  • Pre-packaged foods; 
  • Foods sold loose; and 
  • Food served to you outside of the home. 

The law states that where food is prepared on the premises, one option for retailers is that they do not need to label all the ingredients on food and can instead opt to provide any allergen information orally, provided there is signage which is readily discernible encouraging the customer to ask a member of staff for the details.

This allows large Food Business Outlets (FBO’s) to operate in the same way as a small single-store sandwich shop. This means the law leaves consumers who suffer from allergies exposed to potential safety issues. When it is a matter of life and death, this cannot be right.

The law places the burden on the customer to hunt for allergen information rather than it being provided by the retailer or given on the product itself. 

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse

Natasha-1-(1).jpg
 
Michelle Victor has vast experience of bringing food allergy claims and is part of the legal team, alongside Jill Paterson and Thomas Jervis,  representing Natasha Ednan-Laperouse’s family after their 15 year old daughter tragically died following an anaphylactic reaction caused by the consumption of a Pret a Manger baguette which contained sesame seeds. 

Michelle is petitioning for changes to food labelling laws and food safety practices generally within food manufacturers and retailers. Michelle and her team believe that food preparation methods and ingredients should to be fully transparent to protect the allergy sufferer.

If you or a loved one have suffered as a result of an allergic reaction, you may be able to bring legal action against the shop or manufacturer, we can help you discuss the next steps towards making a claim.

If you would like to speak to a specialist food allergy claims lawyer for a free initial consultation please contact Michelle and her team on 020 7650 1144.

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