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I take food allergy seriously. Not only from a professional point of view, as I am a registered dietitian, and this is my line of work, but also from personal experience. I have a food allergy, an allergy to fish, something I have lived with since infancy.

For the first time in my life, I used my AAI (or, most commonly understood, Epi-pen) last week following an allergic reaction caused by eating a homemade lasagne made by my mother.  The dish contained sun-dried tomatoes which, unbeknown to me, had been purchased from the deli of a well-known supermarket.

What transpired is that the sun-dried tomatoes had become contaminated with fish oil from the anchovies sitting next to them on the counter.  Luckily, I acted quickly to stop the symptoms from progressing by using the Epi-pen and calling paramedics who took me to hospital. Thanks to this quick response my reaction did not progress to anaphylactic shock, the most serious life-threatening reaction to consuming an avoided allergen.

Sadly, this was not the case for Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, the teenager at the heart of the recent publicised case, who ate a baguette containing sesame seed and tragically lost her life because of inadequate labelling. This high-profile case highlights the importance for all eating-out-of-home establishments of reviewing their procedures and practices around food allergy management.

For people living with true food allergies, it can feel like Russian Roulette when it comes to eating out due to a general lack of understanding of the condition. Improving allergy awareness on a whole society scale will help together with improved practices and food labelling legislation. This is now supported by Michael Gove who is urgently considering new legislation to close a loophole in food labeling rules following the death of Natasha – calling it ‘Natasha’s law’.

Food allergy isn’t a fad, it isn’t about bloating or tummy aches, or wanting to be different. It can be the difference between life and death. Training staff on allergy awareness is paramount. I have experienced waiting staff laughing and not taking me seriously when I’ve explained my allergy, and most recently I’ve even been given anchovy butter minutes after telling a waitress about my allergy!

Allergen labelling was brought in under EU regulation FIR in 2014, and it has done a lot to help consumers with food allergies. However, there is still a lot more that can be done so that those with food allergies can eat out of home and know that they have the information they need to decide whether the food on offer is safe to eat.  In turn caterers and those producing, serving and selling food must practice safe food handling and take precautions to avoid cross-contamination.

Since this high-profile case, I have been contacted by number of caterers to review their menus and their allergen management processes, to ensure they are doing everything they should to prevent allergic reaction. If you need help, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01252 705200 or email


To help you and your staff comply with EU Allergen Legislation Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 – we have developed an award-winning online menu management system, Piranha, which will help you:

  • create menus using supplier specific product information including allergen and nutrition information, which is maintained and updated on your behalf
  • categorise menu items to produce an ‘allergen matrix’ which details all allergens, which are present in a menu, on a single sheet

You can read here how we can support you

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