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New regional video campaign aims to cut allergy deaths

Published January 10, 2023 10.57am


A new regional campaign aimed at cutting food allergy-related illness and deaths is launched this week.

food allergens

Environmental health officer inspects sandwich labelling

Around 20 deaths could be prevented in the UK every year if life-saving guidance related to food was followed.

We are joining forces with councils across the North East to spread the life-saving message to food businesses.

We're also working alongside the health professionals of the NHS to change the lives of people with anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition which results in around 20 deaths each year in the UK.

Food allergens

It is estimated that one in 300 people will experience anaphylaxis at some time in their life. In the North East in 2019 there were 76 cases of anaphylaxis under the age of 18 and one fatality.

A common cause of anaphylaxis is the consumption of or exposure to food allergens - most commonly in peanuts, tree nuts, cow's milk, egg, fish and shellfish, and sesame seeds/sesame oil.

Symptoms range from mild itchy skin and swollen lips, face or eyes to vomiting, abdominal pain and anaphylaxis - these symptoms can cause difficulty swallowing or breathing, poor circulation and loss of consciousness and, although rare, symptoms can be fatal. 

Awareness campaign

To raise awareness of the dangers, the region's 12 councils have produced a series of short videos for food businesses on the measures they should have in place to protect their customers who have a food allergy.

Local authority Trading Standards and Environmental Health Officers work with food businesses to ensure they have good allergy management arrangements in place.

The food allergen training videos are available as a simple and readily accessible education and training resource for all food businesses.

Anaphylactic shock

Unfortunately in some cases food business have put their customers at risk.

One such case is teenager Eleanor Lincoln who suffered an anaphylactic shock after consuming a curry which contained peanuts.

The 18-year-old's mother treated her with an Epi-Pen and she spent the night in hospital following a severe allergic reaction to peanuts.

The takeaway involved had failed to omit peanuts from the meal despite a specific request from them to do so. They were fined £450 and ordered to pay £3,000 in costs.

Working together

Judith Hedgley, chair of the North East Public Protection Partnership, said: "There are well over 20,000 food businesses across the North East and we wanted to work together regionally to provide simple messages to help these businesses prepare their food safely and manage the risks around food allergens.

"Environmental Health Officers and Trading Standards Officers work closely with local food manufacturers, restaurants, takeaways and food retailers to help them understand the potentially severe health effects of food allergens and their legal obligations to identify and control allergenic ingredients in the foods they handle and serve.

"Consumers should be able to make an informed and safe choice when buying or ordering food.

"When our officers inspect food businesses they check that food handlers have a good awareness and understanding of the effects that food allergens can have on their customer's health who suffers from a food allergy.

"Food handlers must be able to identify whether the foods they handle contain allergenic ingredients, know how to control food allergens, and provide accurate information to customers when asked about food allergens."

Keeping customers safe

Local businesses have shared their approaches to staying on the right side of the law and keeping customers safe from potentially life-threatening allergens.

Peter Hall, bar & concourse services manager at Middlesbrough Football Club's Riverside Stadium, explained how the venue's catering teams serve nearly 6,000 hot food items during up to 26 home matches every year, and up to 10,000 during a concert.

He said: "We fully recognise the importance of our role and responsibilities relating to the correct management of food allergens and intolerances throughout the hospitality and public concourse catering areas.

"We strive to provide our customers with up-to-date and accurate allergen information so they can make an informed choice on all of the available menu options.

"We do that through clear and accurate labelling on packaging, food allergen posters and allergen sheets held in each area which are an integral part of our food safety management system.

"Ingredients are constantly reviewed and monitored to ensure this information is correct and staff are trained in the basics of allergens and intolerances."

Consume with confidence

Elena Dickson, marketing director for regional meat product and pre-packed sandwich supplier M I Dicksons, said: "As a business we've always been aware of the importance of having product information readily available for our staff and customers.

"We regularly update our allergen documentation and share this with all our stores whenever there's an ingredient or product change within our business.

"It's vitally important that consumers who suffer from allergies can shop with us with confidence, and we are able to give them all the information they require."

Legal requirements

Dr Andrew Bright, honorary consultant in paediatric allergy and editor in chief of BeatAnaphylaxis.co.uk, said: "This is a vital campaign to help food businesses across the North East protect their customers from potentially life threatening allergic reactions through safe handling of allergens.

"This fabulous video series also highlights key measures and legal requirements surrounding provision of allergen information.

"BeatAnaphylaxis is proud to support this important work."




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