Eating out and using home meal replacement services in Japan pose a risk to people with food allergies due to the lack of allergen labelling regulations for these settings.
A web-based survey carried out in August-September 2021 collected data for 1,141 food allergic children aged 5-15 years and found 54% had accidentally ingested an allergen when eating out or using a home meal replacement service. More of the incidents happened when eating out. Hospitalization was required for 15% and 9% of those who had accidentally consumed an allergen while eating out or using home meal replacement, respectively.
Age, milk allergy, and history of anaphylaxis were identified as factors that increased the risk of an adverse reaction in these settings, with personal and store-side errors identified as key reasons for the accidental ingestion. Both stores and customers should therefore take measures to prevent accidental ingestion in these settings, for example by communicating the allergy and discussing ingredients and food preparation methods. For those with prescribed food allergy medication, this should always be carried.
Lack of labelling guidelines was also a major factor, highlighting the need for Japan to consider legislation in the future to regulate allergen labelling in eating-out and home meal replacement services. This would significantly reduce the risk of accidental ingestion for children with food allergies.
Reference: Imai T. Accidental Ingestion of Allergic Food at Eating-Out and Home Meal Replacement by Children with Food Allergy. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2023 Apr 4:1-7. doi: 10.1159/000529674.