Not surprisingly the press has been awash this week in articles and programmes about the new allergen regulations. Good! Great that they are paying attention and covering the subject. However, inevitably, the coverage has also brought the worst along with the best – such as some of the comments on the BBC Breakfast Facebook page after Ruth Holroyd featured in a short piece on Monday.
Apart from a dietitian claiming that her ‘allergies’ were not allergies at all, merely intolerances (how would she know? has she been there and helped Ruth administer her Epipen when she has been in contact with milk?) – comments included:
‘I look after myself – that is not someone else’s responsibility. I’m allergic to people with no common sense.’
‘What do people want…..their food cut up like mummy used to and fed them. Good grief!’
“ If you have an food allergy then that’s your problem…don’t make it everyone else’s problem….business’s have enough red-tape as it is.’
‘Yet more health and safety stupidity in a claim society that has gone completely insane… All this new legislation will do is harm small businesses and probably put people out of work…And all because of a tiny minority that are too stupid to know what they can and cannot eat….’
To be fair, the overwhelming majority of the comments were extremely positive but Ruth was so incensed by some of the more crassly offensive ones that she devoted her diary on FoodsMatter this week to hitting back. I thought that the points that she made were so pertinent that I am copying her diary in here for those of you who might not otherwise read it.
And if, as an allergic person, you want to also to further raise your blood pressure, read this article on the Huffington Post about flying with a peanut allergic child….
Comments on the BBC Breakfast Facebook page –
“Why don’t you just stay at home? You are ruining it for the rest of us.”
“Why are these laws necessary for just 1% of the population? Why should every restaurant be free from every allergen under the sun?”
Would these people suggest all wheelchair users stay home because it’s too difficult to provide easy access to restaurants? If not, why is it alright to suggest that allergy sufferers should just stay at home, because it is too difficult to ensure that they can eat safely? And why is it funny to call us the ‘allergy woman’ or the ‘awkward one’ or, adding insult to injury, to question whether we do really have an allergy at all?
This is not a lifestyle choice. We did not choose to be like this. We did nothing wrong and in fact, even doctors don’t really know why this is happening to us. Allergies are serious business and need constant vigilance but they shouldn’t mean we are treated like second class citizens.
I have had so many anaphylactic reactions to meals when I have attempted to eat out over the years that now I rarely even try. But why should I be cooped up in my house and never able to eat out with friends or family? I am fed up with staying at home so that as few people as possible have to be affected by my allergies. I am standing up for my rights to join in society, to eat out, to enjoy a meal cooked by someone other than myself. I want to try new foods and I want to be treated with respect.
So get over your prejudice, Breakfast viewers – and be grateful you don’t have allergies too. These new allergen laws will make eating out much safer for those with allergies – but only if people embrace them and understand what they mean.
And what do they mean?
“This law will mean pubs and restaurants close because they can’t afford to comply. It will crush every chef’s creative flair. “
Will it? What rubbish!
The law does not say that every restaurant must rid their kitchen of all 14 allergens. It says that they must know which allergens are either present or at risk of cross contamination in their food and be able to communicate this verbally. There is no obligation on them to provide allergen free food.
So restaurants could just tell everyone with allergies that they are not safe to eat there. That could well be the way many establishments go and I completely respect that. I would far rather be advised that eating somewhere is not safe than be given false assurances and become ill. Not every kitchen will be able to cater for those with allergies, but they DO absolutely need to understand their menu and dishes so that they can warn allergic diners.
Here’s an analogy for you. If you were driving along and a child ran out in front of you, even if you were not speeding and hadn’t been drinking, you would never get over an accident like that, especially if the child was seriously injured or killed. Nobody would laugh about such an incident, blame the child, or say either party should have just stayed at home. Should all children stay inside and never go out for fear they may get run over? No, of course not. Instead we bring in safety laws, improve car performance, visibility, road lighting and markings. We educate our children about staying safe on the roads. We do everything we can to prevent accidents and we drive as safely as possible.
So, imagine you cooked a meal which accidentally contained a trace of an allergen and someone with an allergy was rushed to A&E with anaphylaxis. Imagine if that person died? I don’t think anyone wants that, least of all a chef, who just wants all guests to enjoy their food.
Nobody would intentionally put another at risk. What these new regulations are doing is to attempt to insure that nobody does.
If you want to see the BBC Breakfast piece click here.
Here to see the comments see the Facebook book page – but you will need to spool down to the 8th December.
For the story behind the filming, see Ruth’s blog here.