Food allergic consumers more confident about eating out

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) welcomes new research published today, showing that people with food allergies and intolerances are more confident about eating out since allergen information rules were introduced in 2014. The study presents strong evidence that the legislation has had a positive impact and that good allergen information is good for business.

People living with food allergies and intolerances

Over 2 million people in the UK have a food allergy and an estimated 600,000 have coeliac disease. In December 2014, the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU FIC) changed the way food businesses had to provide allergen information to consumers.

To understand the effect of this change, detailed research – on a UK representative sample of people with food allergies and intolerances – was commissioned by the FSA and carried out by the University of Bath. The study focused on consumer preferences when eating out, both before and after the implementation of the EU FIC. The study also compared views from consumers on how food businesses responded to the allergen rules pre and post-implementation.

Key findings
The research found that, post legislation:

  • 70% of food allergic and intolerant consumers feel more confident in asking staff for allergen information
  • 56% of food allergic and intolerant consumers value staff more as a source of information
  • 44% of food allergic and intolerant consumers are more ‘adventurous’ about eating out
  • 67% feel allergen information on food business websites is dependable
  • 63% say talking to the chef about their allergen needs can be relied on
  • 35% report an improvement in allergen information in the menu.

Food allergic and intolerant customers also said that improved confidence in allergen information led them to eating out more frequently and that they were more likely to return to and recommend venues with staff that were helpful and attentive about their allergen needs.

Good allergen information is good for business
Heather Hancock, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said: ‘Everyone should be able to trust their food. When people live with a food allergy or intolerance that can make them really ill or be life threatening, that trust becomes critical. This new research shows that many food businesses have a good understanding of the allergen information rules, with the result that consumers trust them and feel confident that they'll be safe when eating out.

‘I'm delighted that we've been able to work with food businesses to make such a difference, improving public health and enhancing choice and confidence for millions. Some, often smaller, food businesses haven't got on top of providing allergen information yet. I hope this research helps them see the importance of meeting their obligations and the benefits it delivers. At the FSA, we'll be increasing our efforts to ensure businesses understand their responsibilities and their customer.’

Link: The preferences of those with food allergies and intolerances when eating out Research report

Link: Allergen resources: www.food.gov.uk/allergen-resources

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