Department of Psychology

Improving the eating out experiences of people with a food allergy or intolerance

The numbers of people with a food allergy or food intolerance are increasing. The implications of accidental allergen ingestion can be very serious - even fatal. Twenty-one to 31% of such accidental allergen ingestion occurs when eating in restaurants and 13-23% occurs in other eating out environments such as work or school canteens. So eating out presents a particular challenge both for affected individuals and for legislators, for food providers and for the wider community. EU legislation was introduced in December 2014 that requires providers of food that is not prepacked to supply written and verbal information about the presence of 14 specified food allergens.

Led by Professor Julie Barnett at University of Bath and working closely with key support groups (the Anaphylaxis Campaign, Allergy UK and Coeliac UK), colleagues at other Universities and an expert by experience, we have undertaken both quantitative and qualitative research to understand people's preferences for written and for verbal information about the allergens in their food when they are eating out. We have done this both before and after the legislation in order to look at what might have changed in people's preferences, their eating out practices and their quality of life. We are working with the Food Standards Agency who funded this research to shape their recommendations for allergen information provision, with support groups, and with food providers who are required to supply food allergen information for consumers.