Action to help protect consumers with food allergies and intolerances have been announced by the Food Standards Agency.

The move follows the inquest into the death of teenager Owen Carey, who died after having an allergic reaction to buttermilk at a London branch of the Byron restaurant chain.

Action to be taken by the FSA will include:

  • Issuing an aide-memoire for Environmental Health Officers and Trading Standards Officers focused on the action they should be taking in relation to food allergies
  • Publishing an update of the Safer Food Better Business guide, including a review of the allergens information
  • Launching an awareness campaign at the end of the year to remind businesses and consumers about how to keep people with food allergies safe
  • Implementing a pilot project to develop better reporting of allergic reactions
  • Focusing on the concerns raised by Carey’s case at an Industry Leadership Forum on food hypersensitivity in November
  • Meeting with Byron and their local authority to discuss the detail of the Carey case and lessons learned
  • Commission a full root cause analysis of the Byron specific incident to ensure lessons are shared

The FSA also said it was committed to supporting food businesses to keep consumers safe, and to develop a greater understanding of food allergens through further research.

In a statement following the inquest, Byron said that when customers say they have an allergy, their order is highlighted to kitchen staff and steps are taken to minimise the risk of cross-contamination. In 2018 Bryon introduced a policy whereby all customers are asked by their server whether they have any allergies, and its restaurants now have a leaflet on every table saying ‘tell your server about your allergies’.

Bryon added that it would be raising concerns with the government about long delays in the Carey case, including the business not being notified by the coroner’s court that Carey had fallen ill and then died on the day that he ate at its restaurant.

“These delays meant potentially vital evidence in finding out what happened to Carey was no longer available,” stated the business.

Similar concerns were raised by Pret A Manger food safety boss Tim Smith, who has urged for a change in the way allergen-related deaths and serious incidents are reported. He said there had been a nine-month delay between the death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse – after she ate a baguette containing sesame, to which she was allergic –– and Pret being notified of the incident.