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Ask the Food Standards Agency experts your questions about food allergies and intolerances - £200 voucher to be won

(94 Posts)
LucyBMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 16-Feb-21 13:00:15

Over the last year, many of us have indulged in more takeaways than ever before. While takeaways are a well deserved treat, we should always be mindful of the precautions we need to take when ordering food, especially if someone in the group has a food allergy.

Research shows that 18 - 21 year olds are at a higher risk of experiencing food allergy incidents.* While they may feel more confident about managing their food allergy, they could be less likely to tell a business about this allergy if they had eaten at the premises before, as they feel ‘safe’.

With this in mind the Food Standards Agency is bringing in a panel of experts to answer your questions about food allergies and intolerances, and help you to equip your children to be takeaway safe.

Whether you’d like to know the difference between a food allergy and intolerance, find out tips for helping your children order safely, or hear why it’s important to always speak directly to the restaurant each time you order food, the Food Standards Agency experts will be online on 10th March to answer your questions.

Here’s what the Food Standards Agency has to say: “Our research has revealed that young people are eating takeaways more often than before lockdown. With eating in being the new eating out, it is vital that young people with food allergies and their friends remember to speak to the restaurant every time they make an order. Even if it’s a meal they’ve eaten before, because ingredients, recipes and staff can change. That’s why we’re launching our #SpeakUpForAllergies campaign. We’re working with Mumsnet to provide parents with advice on food allergies – particularly around how to support 18 to 21 year olds, who we know from our research are at higher risk of experiencing food allergy incidents.*”

Want to know who will be responding to your questions and comments? Find out more about the Food Standards Agency’s experts below:

Arvind Thandi, Team Leader – Food Hypersensitivity, Food Standards Agency
Arvind works in the Food Hypersensitivity policy team in the FSA, on projects aiming to improve the quality of life for people with food allergies and intolerances.

Sarah Baker, Campaign Manager - Anaphylaxis Campaign
Sarah is a health professional with over 40 years of experience working in the NHS. Sarah has been leading the Anaphylaxis Campaign campaigns working closely with the information team and will provide insight into the development and impact of these today.

Holly Shaw, Clinical Nurse Advisor - Allergy UK
Holly is a Clinical Nurse Advisor in the allergy speciality. She has 19 years nursing experience including a Certificate in Allergy Nursing from the University of South Australia. Holly is also a member of the British Society of Clinical Allergy and Immunology.

All who post a question on this thread will be entered into a prize draw where one MNer will win a £200 voucher for the store of their choice (from a list).

Thanks and good luck!


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OP’s posts: |
Dizzywizz Tue 16-Feb-21 16:02:57

Hi! Are there any intolerance tests that work, or is the only way to do a food diary and try to remove things one by one? Thanks

user1471504821 Tue 16-Feb-21 16:18:40

Why aren't tests used by dermatologists much? I am due to see a dermatologist and want to establish rather than guess at my triggers. Have had chronic eczema for over a year which is around my eyes and gets set off most days but can't pin down by what.

Many thanks

TakeMeToYourLiar Tue 16-Feb-21 16:38:38

Now we are outside the EU will you consider expanding the list of 14 allergens that have to be highlighted

tinkerbellvspredator Tue 16-Feb-21 16:49:01

On social media I see some resistance to reporting food safety incidents to local authorities/ FSA. People worry about affecting the restaurant owners' livelihoods or discouraging them from trying to accommodate people with food intolerance in future. How would you encourage people to report when they experience poor food safety practices or ignorance on food allergies? Do you get many reports related to allergy safety compared to other issues like hygiene issues?

WeeDangerousSpike Tue 16-Feb-21 18:11:24

My brother is allergic to apple, and my friend allergic to cinnamon - anaphylaxis allergic. I have worked in food labelling and know other countries have different declarable allergens than the UK/EU. Some countries require apples or strawberries to be declared for instance. Are there any plans for additional allergens to be included in UK labelling regulations?

My friend's cinnamon allergy is particularly concerning because it is so serious, yet it is perfectly legal to list ingredients as just 'spices'. I find this astounding when it isn't legal to list 'vegetable oil' for instance, without specifying which type.

In the same vein my brother has to be very careful of anything listing 'natural flavouring' in case it is apple.

As consumers are becoming increasingly interested in what they are eating, and allergen awarenes is increasing, are there plans to make labelling more transparent and remove these 'catchall' loopholes for groups of ingredients that currently don't require a breakdown?

I know I was shocked when I first started working in food that the ingredient list didn't actually list everything in the product. Not listing 'process aids' for instance. As anyone can be allergic to anything, I think it is unnecessarily dangerous to omit ingredients.

Cotswoldmama Tue 16-Feb-21 18:23:11

What are common symptoms of a food allergy/ intolerance? I can sometimes get phelgmy after eating certain foods and I often wonder if it's an allergy but it's not bothersome enough for me to work out what it is! Can allergy's get worse over time?

virginpinkmartini Tue 16-Feb-21 18:49:04

I think its really good you are trying to educate the public more about self preservation when it comes to allergens in restaurants.
As someone who cooks for a living, it is extremely stressful when we are understaffed in the kitchen when its busy, and there are multiple orders on for people suffering from allergies. As you're aware, everything needs to be sanitised, cooked separately from the other allergens and prepared in a designated area with designated cutting boards, with rigorous handwashing and taken out separately. And as much as I do take it really seriously and am thorough with the protocols, I still have a feeling of worry because I would be devastated if I missed something in the mad rush and someone was hurt.
There was a case in the news a couple of years ago, I wont mention which one out of respect for his family, but it involved a young lad sadly passing away because he was misinformed about a menu item not containing his particular allergen. This menu item was partly prepared in a central kitchen, and the cook in the kitchen did not realise it had already been marinaded. They now have to live with this for the rest of their life, knowing this young man died because of a very costly mistake. The young man was also without his epi-pen, so a lack of awareness all round.
I think people should be aware that human error can and will happen when ordering out, whether it comes from some point in the supply chain, or a trainee who may not be as informed as they should be about allergens, or a freak accident of cross contamination.
My question would be, should there be a basic agreement that if you go into a premises, you do so under the assumption that cross contamination may occur, and therefore those with very severe allergies should avoid eating out where possible to protect everyone involved. But I do realise that there can't just be 'Get out of jail free' cards given to establishments that give out wrong information/actively fail to avoid cross contamination without fear of being held accountable.

Cismyfatarse Tue 16-Feb-21 19:48:44

What are the rules around meals in restaurants or from takeaways? Is the onus on the customer to ask or on the premises to share information? It is hugely frustrating when information is not there - for example a pudding might not say it contains nuts, but is garnished with them.

Some of the big chains have books of ingredients. When will this be required of all food premises? Or is it too much for a small business to handle?

Theimpossiblegirl Tue 16-Feb-21 19:54:40

Why is labelling not clearer and more detailed? It seems crazy when people could die from an allergic reaction.
Would it be worth restaurants having epi pens in their first aid kits? Are they all more or less the same?

Asuwere Tue 16-Feb-21 20:09:54

At what age are most food allergies discovered/diagnosed? How likely is it to develop a new food allergy as an adult?

Thack Tue 16-Feb-21 20:18:15

Great panel MN, thanks for hosting!

I'm due my first baby next month. Is there any foods that I should expose to baby at a young age to reduce the risk of allergy? Or conversely, anything to avoid?

Quietvoiceplease Tue 16-Feb-21 20:40:29

Really helpful thread, thanks.
My question is about how you know whether you have an intolerance or an allergy? What's the best thing initially to do if you think your child has a (non-life threatening) reaction to certain foods?

nzborn Tue 16-Feb-21 22:13:55

Mushrooms when l was younger the smell of them cooking caused me to vomit as l got older this changed to the other end.
So is this an allergy or intolerance and why a change in how my body reacts nb l only have to smell them cooking?

HotButteronaBreakfastToast Tue 16-Feb-21 22:14:29

What's the best way to deal with relatives who don't believe in allergies? So stressful when you can't trust other people to provide safe food because they think it's just fussiness or exaggeration. sad

BalloonSlayer Tue 16-Feb-21 23:10:19

What would your advice be to someone who has received blood test results that indicate the IgE levels of something they have always been allergic to have fallen to a negligible level?

I am referring to my twenty year old son, who is now longing to try a food he has never eaten because he feels his results suggest he can. We have implored him not to as the levels are probably low simply because he has avoided it for 20 years. Fortunately he is listening to us for the time being . . .

7catsandcounting Tue 16-Feb-21 23:42:40

My daughter came up in hives all over her body. Big blisters filled with water. She was prescribed antihistimines. I used them once. The blisters disappeared within 20 mins and never came back. Should I have tests? Could this be serious? She eats everything I give her. She's always been vegetarian. She's 3. What should I do?

Oatsamazing Wed 17-Feb-21 03:06:36

I have a 4 month old baby, I'd like to know if there is anything I can do to avoid them developing an allergy or intolerance. I've always had a fairly restrictive diet, I used to be vegan, but have tried to relax this since being pregnant and breastfeeding. I read a lot about babies having cows milk protein allergy and lactose intolerance, it would be good to know more about these as the symptoms seem to be very general

MrsAvocet Wed 17-Feb-21 04:22:05

What do you think of the proliferation of commercial allergy testing services many of which use methods with no scientific basis? Why is this "industry" not more heavily regulated given the potentially disastrous effects of misdiagnosis?

BristolMum96 Wed 17-Feb-21 07:34:18

Can allergies change over time? My child had a severe dairy allergy as a baby but seems to have hardly any bother since, albeit with smaller amounts.

GooodMythicalMorning Wed 17-Feb-21 10:37:20

I've noticee when ordering online that a lot of the time its fairly clear if something is vegetarian or vegan but not very clear about allergies, are you putting in place any rules about making it clearer whether something contains nuts/dairy/egg for example? My friend has allergies and a lot of the time we can't order online because there isn't even an ingredients list to read.

Backhometothenorth Wed 17-Feb-21 13:34:36

We suspect our daughter has adhd - what are the main foods to avoid?

TechnoDino Wed 17-Feb-21 16:07:38

How long does a food need to be eliminated for fir it to completely leave a person’s system, and any benefits from exclusion be valid?

Quincy69 Wed 17-Feb-21 16:25:07

I'd really like to ask the following questions.

Are allergies or intolerances genetic or acquired health issues? Just curious to find out if we're born with them or they are developed due to the environmental factors one is exposed to.

Second question, is there a correlation between some allergies or intolerances - what are the chances to be allergic to peanuts if you're intolerant to cashew, for example?

Third, is there any research to attribute personal characteristics with specific food allergies or intolerances? Might sound weird but it's brain chemicals in the end of the day so have always wondered.

Many thanks!

justaweeone Wed 17-Feb-21 17:47:53

Do you think that you can truly trust the information regarding allergens if you order food from a restaurant?

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