Do food delivery platforms take allergens seriously?

Allergen management on food delivery platforms.jpg

Introduction

Online food delivery giants such as Just Eat, Hungry House and Deliveroo have made ordering takeaways a breeze. For the consumer, it is as simple as launching the respective app, selecting the preferred cuisine, browsing through an ever-growing number of takeaway establishments, and then placing an order.

But what about consumers with a food or drink allergy – how are allergens being managed via these platforms and who’s responsibility is it? 

Responsibility of the food business

In the UK, food businesses are legally required to provide allergen information on any food or drinks served. However, the law for food ordered from businesses via an app, online or on the phone is different and instead is classed as ‘distance selling’. Therefore, the food and drink on sale does not need to be labelled with the full ingredients. Instead, it is only a requirement to ensure that mandatory allergen information is available to the consumer before they make their purchase, either via the website, on a menu or over the phone.

Responsibility of food delivery platforms

Although food delivery companies are not legally responsible for allergen management, most have strict policies which they expect their suppliers to abide by. Most go as far as saying they will remove any business that does not comply with the allergen policy. However, how well this is monitored and enforced is difficult to say.

The Royal Society of Public Health is just one of several bodies demanding that food delivery platforms only take on and approve new food businesses once they have provided accurate allergen information. Indeed, this would make allergen managment compulsory and reassure consumers with an allergy that the food and drink they’re ordering is safe to consume.

Responsibility of the consumer

Managing allergen information can be complex for food businesses. Consumers with a food or drink allergy should always inform the establishment in advance of ordering and if using online services, call ahead and communicate your requirements clearly. 

Safety concerns of online delivery platforms

With laws surrounding allergens being more relaxed with food delivery platforms, there is more cause for concern when consumers with an allergy order food and drink in this way. One such news story to hit the headlines was that of James Atkinson, who tragically died in July 2020 after eating a slice of pizza he had ordered via a food delivery app. James had a known peanut allergy and his cause of death was due to an anaphylactic reaction. It has been suggested that the pizza had been made with peanut flour instead of the usual almond flour, however an inquest into his death is set to take place in October 2022. His family are now petitioning for a change in law so that food delivery platforms must comply with the same legislation as regular food businesses.

How to improve allergen management via food delivery platforms

Food businesses

  • Include allergen information on any online menus
  • Give customers the opportunity to communicate any allergens whilst ordering
  • Train staff to ask customers about allergies if ordering on the phone
  • Put allergen stickers on takeaway boxes to highlight any allergens in delivered food
  • Inform customers of any changes to dishes
  • Make sure all staff have up to date and regular allergen training

 

Food delivery apps

  • Impose strict policies that only allow new businesses to join if accurate allergen information is provided and maintained
  • Create an area for customers to notify the food business about any allergies at the time of ordering
  • Maintain and enforce allergen management policies that food businesses must comply with

 

If the above measures had been in place before James Atkinson had ordered the pizza, it is likely he would have not lost his life. Allergen management is critical for the safety of consumers, especially when ordering food online as there may not be an opportunity to speak to anyone throughout the ordering process.

Next steps…

Does your business need support with allergen management? allmanhall can support you with compliance and training, ensuring your team has understanding and awareness of the latest laws and legislation surrounding allergens. For more information, email us: hello@allmanhall.co.uk

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