By Ashley Boyle
The Food Standard Agency’s new #easytoASK campaign is looking to encourage 16-24-year-olds with allergies and/or food intolerances to ask more questions when eating out, ordering takeaways or using shared kitchens.
This campaign could not be more pertinent given the recent news that Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, aged 15, died consequently after eating at a Pret a Manger outlet in Heathrow airport in 2016. The teenager collapsed after having an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette which had no allergen advice on the label.
Whilst the chain have now agreed to list all ingredients on the labels of their products, the FSA feel that more needs to be done to prevent further incidents.
FSA Chairman Heather Hancock said “We’ve seen real progress in how food businesses approach customers with allergies.”
However, figures suggest that 60% of the young people surveyed told the FSA they’ve avoided eating out in the past six months because of their condition.
Gair Rhydd spoke with Megan Auld, president of the Problematic Eaters Alliance (PEA), a society here at Cardiff University which aims to help those with allergies, intolerances or other restrictions when eating. Megan was recently diagnosed with Coeliac Disease and Lactose Intolerance which she says has really affected her student experience. She has struggled with shared kitchens, the new diet and the mental strain which makes her feel quite low and awkward around others.
When we asked what the society hopes to achieve, she replied “We want to set up a review system for local food establishments and communal advice documents.
“We want to create a safe space for people to discuss issues and find people who understand what they go through and most importantly we want to help raise awareness of these issues, specifically in shared kitchens where those without any dietary requirements might not be acquainted with the idea of ‘cross-contamination,” said Auld.
The society are also keen to educate students living with others who have allergies or intolerances on how to recognise if something isn’t right and how to use an episode pen. Megan also wants to “liaise with the Counselling and Wellbeing Service to make sure that students with dietary requirements can be fully supported”.
We also asked Megan what she thought about the new FSA campaign, of which she said “[it] sounds like a great idea. It’s so important to remove stigmas, barriers and embarrassment around our issues! I personally have held back on talking about things that are bothering me, even to doctors because of the embarrassment surrounding talking about problems with poo, farts and bowel movements. It’s gross but it needs talking about”.
Megan told us what she thought about the recent Pret incidents; “I was genuinely saddened to hear about what happened. Any allergic reaction is preventable. They are not inevitable but come from a specific allergen that any food establishment should at the very least clearly label on their foods.
“Though this case is frustrating in the fact that it was completely avoidable, I hope at least that it will convince Pret and other food establishments of the importance of getting to know allergens and making theirs more friendly towards us.
“We’re not choosing to be awkward, believe me I would love nothing more than to eat off the regular menu, we just need a bit of extra caution and attention”.
Anyone who would like to join the PEA society can do so on the Students’ Union website:
They also have a Facebook group: