An undercover investigation by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has found just over two thirds of takeaways appear to be breaking the law. The investigation, which included 10 types of takeaways, found chicken shops to be the worst offenders.
Of the chicken shops visited, four in five couldn’t supply legally required allergen information when asked, and none had records of allergens used as ingredients in meals or could signpost customers to allergen information.
Legislation introduced in 2014 requires takeaways to be able to declare the presence of any of the 14 major allergens used as ingredients in their food, provide notices in a clear visible format and have a system in place to ensure information can be checked, is accurate and consistent.
Other findings included:
- Over two thirds of all takeaways visited failed to provide legally required information on how customers can find out if the 14 major allergens are in their food
- Over half of fried chicken, fish and chips, chinese, sushi and pizza shops unable to state whether their food contained an allergen
- Four in five said they were not in possession of records stating whether allergens were present in ingredients used and nine out of ten could not produce this when asked.
In response RSPH is calling for online food delivery sites, including Hungry House, Just Eat and Deliveroo, to make sure takeaways are providing allergen information before signing them up in order to help protect the 2 million food allergic consumers in the UK. Through rejecting noncompliant businesses this would both inform outlets of their legal requirements and provide an incentive for them to become compliant.
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, comments: “Our research has uncovered alarming rates of apparent non-compliance. It is inexcusable that six months on from the legislation being introduced so many takeaways still appear to be breaking the law, and jeopardising their customer’s health. We recognise that implementing changes takes time, however every year in the UK 5000 of the 2 million people living with food allergies need hospital treatment for severe allergic reactions and on average 10 die from food-induced anaphylaxis. Increased education and enforcement are urgently needed to ensure food handlers understand the dangers of non compliance and stop putting the public’s health at risk.”
As part of its new campaign RSPH is also calling for:
- Allergen information management to be assessed during inspection and an ‘Allergy Aware’ award displayed alongside food hygiene rating where good practice is followed.
- Businesses to ensure their staff are properly trained to manage the risks from allergens and providers of food hygiene certificates to integrate allergen management modules into courses.
- Consumers to understand the risk they face by not communicating their needs clearly, to exercise caution and report suspected noncompliant businesses.