Restaurants should be forced to publish allergy information on menus, the body responsible for food safety has said.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is backing calls for ‘Owen’s Law’, launched by the family of a teenager who died after an allergic reaction.
Owen Carey suffered an anaphylactic shock after eating chicken containing buttermilk, despite telling restaurant staff he was allergic to dairy.
Food allergies, intolerances or coeliac disease affect two million in the UK.
At a meeting on Wednesday, the FSA agreed that written allergy information should be compulsory in restaurants and coffee shops. It said members of its board would write to the government about this.
The FSA also said that conversations between staff and customers should also be expected.
Mr Carey, from Crowborough, East Sussex, died after unwittingly eating food he was allergic to, during a meal out on his 18th birthday in April 2017.
Since his death, the teenager’s family have been campaigning to get the law changed.
Reacting to the outcome of the FSA Board meeting, Mr Carey’s father, Paul Carey, said he “had a tear in his eye” and was “having a little celebratory whisky” due to the “good results”.
“It’s been a struggle, we’ve been going at this for quite a few years – it has sometimes felt like it was never going to get anywhere, so yes, I was a little bit overwhelmed and had a little tear in my eye today when they said they were going to recommend to the minister that it becomes law.
“We’re hoping that people with allergies can go out and eat in comfort now if you have this law, because they can see what’s in their food.”
FSA chairwoman Professor Susan Jebb said “it was clear that the board feel that we should set an expectation that food businesses like coffee shops and restaurants provide allergen information in writing as well as having a conversation.
“To maximise the likelihood of this happening, written information should be a legal requirement, rather than just guidance.”
The FSA is responsible for food safety and hygiene across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Prof Jebb said she will write to the relevant ministers in these three nations, as well as her counterpart in Scotland, and that she hoped to see the changes taken “forward on a four-country basis”.
“I would also like to thank the Carey family for all their work in highlighting the importance of this issue,” she added.
In the meantime, the FSA also said it would work to develop guidance for food businesses on how to provide written allergen information.
In 2021, Natasha’s Law came into force, requiring foods pre-packaged on site, such as sandwiches, to carry a full list of ingredients.
It came after 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died from having an allergic reaction to a baguette bought from Pret-a-Manger.