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Don’t let food allergens spoil your Christmas

Horsham District Council Environmental Heath’s Food Safety team are raising awareness among food allergy suffers and hospitality outlets in the Horsham District with the message ‘Don’t let food allergens spoil your Christmas’.

The aim of this initiative is to help both the general public and the food industry to be more informed and considerate about food hypersensitivity.

Many food allergy sufferers avoid eating out due to the increased risk that eating foods they have not prepared themselves could potentially contain a food allergen or be cross contaminated with traces of a food allergen during preparation.

However, seasonal festivities tempt many to take a chance when eating out in order to celebrate Christmas with family, friends and/or work colleagues.

Millions of people in the UK have a food allergy.  The allergy causes the body’s immune system to react unusually to certain foods.  Alarmingly there has been a stark rise in the number of young people suffering from food allergies leading to a number of high profile cases.

As part of their campaign the Council’s Food Safety team have created a YouTube Video to advise businesses on how to manage food allergens in their establishments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkCyK7JahYo and are giving away free badges to any food business for staff to wear with the message ‘Ask me about allergens’.

Horsham District Council Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing Cllr Tricia Youtan said:

“We are committed to protecting the health of people with food hypersensitivities and improving and increasing their food choices.

“This initiative also helps support our local food businesses by encouraging front of house staff to ask customers about allergens before taking food orders.  The YouTube video and training provision for food handlers and business owners shows that we take this issue very seriously”.

She added that:

“Food allergy sufferers are not being difficult when asking for allergen information and it should never be an embarrassment or inconvenience.  They need to make safe food choices as the consequences for some sufferers can be fatal.  Speaking up about allergens should not hold any stigma”.

Earlier this year the Food Safety team held a number of training workshops in partnership with the leading charity Allergy UK.  More than 80 local food business attended the two hour sessions and the Council have arranged to repeat the exercise on 9 January 2020.

The aim of the campaign is to encourage a dialog between businesses and the customer.  The trade association for the hospitality industry ‘UKHospitality’ recently undertook a survey among its members and found that 40% of allergy complaints were from guests who hadn’t mentioned to the business that they had an allergy.

This initiative follows on from last year’s ‘Easy to ASK’ campaign designed to empower young people to ask about allergens when eating out, so that they can make safe choices. Easy to ASK also reminds food establishments to ask customers about their dietary needs, and help put people with food allergies (especially those who are young and may be embarrassed) at ease. It follows the simple prompt:

  • Always ask about allergies
  • Speak Up
  • Keep Safe.

For further details of the allergy training workshops and/or receiving free badges, businesses can contact the Horsham District Council Environmental Health team on 01403 215641 or email publichealth.licensing@horsham.gov.uk .

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