The restaurant and takeaway industry has been warned that “work is needed” to ensure better allergen education after a poll claimed the serving of contaminated food to allergy sufferers remains widespread.
In a survey of 1,000 allergy sufferers, 58% of respondents said their allergies had been triggered by food they had been assured was safe to eat. While 30% managed their symptoms with medication, one in 10 needed to see doctor and 7% had to be rushed to A&E.
Three in 10 of those questioned said they had suffered a reaction more than once after eating food from a restaurant or takeaway which they had deemed safe; and 58% said they had experienced negative treatment because of their allergy, including being ignored, not taken seriously and accusations being made that they were being “fussy”.
Shane Smith, a lawyer at firm Slater and Gordon, which commissioned the research, said: “These results are astonishing. Most of us have a friend or loved one with a potentially fatal allergy, yet so many restaurants and takeaways still seem to regard it as being of little importance.
“Comments like ‘it can’t be that bad’ and ‘it won’t hurt you this once’ show just how much work is still needed to educate owners and staff about the very real dangers.
“For those with an allergy it is not a choice but a serious condition which could kill them if ignored.”
The law firm represents the family of 15-year-old Megan Lee (pictured with her father), who died after eating food from the Royal Spice Takeaway in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, on 30 December 2016. Ordering through Just Eat, a friend of Lee’s had written “prawns, nuts” in the comments and notes section, but the food that arrived was later found to have had a “widespread presence” of peanut protein.
Megan died on New Year’s Day 2017, having suffered irreversible brain damage caused by an asthma attack. Two takeaway workers owner Mohammed Abdul Kuddus, 40, and manager Harun Rashid, 38, have since been sentenced to two and three years in prison respectively on charges of manslaughter by gross negligence.
At the time Lee’s family expressed their hope that the industry would see her death, and the resulting sentence, as a “warning”.
Speaking outside court in October, Megan’s father Adam Lee said: “While we may have received some justice with today’s verdicts, we live in hope that today’s result is a warning to other food businesses operating in such a deplorable and ignorant manner to learn from this and improve their standards with immediate effect.”
He added: “Do not guess, do not play ignorant, do not play Russian roulette with precious lives.”