By Allergen Bureau

Major UK Food Businesses Demand Clearer Rules On Food Allergy Labelling

According to The Guardian newspaper, 11 leading food businesses in the UK, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, and Marks & Spencer, have written an open letter calling for clearer rules on food labelling following the deaths of two Pret a Manger customers who suffered allergic reactions to undeclared ingredients.

The letter demands that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) make a clear decision on allergen thresholds and to recommend this to ministers. Additionally, the businesses, which also include Pret a Manger and Greggs, seek the establishment of a mandatory reporting system for food-related anaphylaxis cases.

Both issues were highlighted last year by the coroner hearing the inquest on Celia Marsh, who died after eating a vegan Pret a Manger wrap containing undeclared milk protein. The coroner said that labels implying the absence of a particular allergen were potentially misleading, especially terms like “free-from” and “vegan”. The letter argues that clearer labelling rules would provide food sellers with an absolute definition of how much of a specific allergen pre-packed food could safely contain before being labelled as free of that allergen.

The letter also points out that Marsh’s death was not immediately reported to the relevant authorities or to the business that had sold the product. The businesses, therefore, call for a “robust system” to be devised for the rapid reporting of fatal and near-fatal severe allergic reactions. The aim is to help keep allergic consumers safe and to increase the choice of foods they can safely consume.

The letter has been sent to various authorities, including No 10, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the health secretary, Steve Barclay, the FSA, the UK Health Security Agency, the Royal College of Pathologists, UK Hospitality and the Food & Drink Federation.

See the full article in The Guardian.