Fast-food firms are toying with people’s lives by ignoring strict new food laws, it was warned today.
One of Blackpool’s 280 takeaways currently faces prosecution after food it served was twice found to contain peanut – despite staff saying it didn’t.
Others were warned after serving ham and pineapple pizza that actually contained turkey, and lamb rogan josh that was actually beef.
The revelations came to light in a report to Blackpool Council’s Health and Wellbeing board.
The document states: “Where businesses have stated peanut has not been used, meals have been checked for the presence of peanut. One business has been tested twice and on both occassions has been positive for the presence of peanut. The business is now being prosecuted for this and other food hygiene offences.”
And deputy leader at Blackpool Council, Gillian Campbell, today called for businesses to brush up on new food laws - which say allergens in food must be clearly labelled – and warned them: “The impact of not knowing this information could be life threatening and, in other parts of the country, people have died due to not being aware of what ingredients were used in a dish.”
Where businesses have stated peanut has not been used, meals have been checked for the presence of peanut. One business has been tested twice and on both occassions has been positive for the presence of peanut
Town hall staff wouldn’t say which eateries were involved – one because legal proceedings are ongoing and the others because only warnings were issued – but it is understood two are takeaways.
The other, caught selling beef instead of lamb, is an Indian restaurant.
Coun Campbell said: “Our officers have been out checking food properties are aware of what goes in their food, as well as making sure that the premises and kitchens are kept clean.
“If people don’t comply then they could be at risk of prosecution, as well as potentially having to deal with their conscience should somebody get ill from their food.”
In late 2014, a new European law came into force that requires any business that serves food to clearly state if it contains any of 14 specific allergens, including cereals containing gluten, fish and shellfish, eggs, nuts, milk, nuts, soybeans, celery, mustard, sesame, lupin (found in pasta, baked goods, and flour), molluscs (such as mussels, whelks, oysters, snails, and squid), and sulphur dioxide or sulphites, which can be used to preserve dried fruit.
The law also covers schools, prisons, hospitals, workplace canteens, and places where food is given away free, such as food banks and soup kitchens.
Those who fall foul face being charged with a criminal offence and slapped with an unlimited fine.
Blackpool Council was awarded a £2,500 share of £180,000 given to the North West by the government last April so it could carry out checks.
Further checks could be funded, although the Government’s Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) budget has yet to be confirmed.
A spokesman said: “We support action taken by local authorities to enforce the new allergy regulations.
“They are important as they protect those with food allergies and make it simpler for them to make food choices.
“The new regulations mean consumers can confidently obtain vital information on allergenic ingredients when eating out.”
Around two million people are living in the UK with a food allergy, including an estimated 6,000 people in Blackpool, which was last year revealed to be the takeaway capital of the UK, with more than treble the national average.
They could suffer an allergic reaction after eating a ‘tiny’ amount of what they are allergic to, the FSA said, while the figure does not include people living with intolerances.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from itching around the mouth and rashes, to vomiting, diarrhoea, wheezing, and anaphylactic shock which can prove fatal.
Around 10 people in the UK die from allergic reactions to food every year.
Supply teacher Bryan Graham, 30, of Palatine Road, central Blackpool, was diagnosed with a shellfish allergy around six years ago.
He said even the smallest trace can leave his face and tongue swollen.
“I find it harder to order online,” he said. “I ordered a mushroom foo yung from a Chinese, which is an omelette, and because it was cooked at the same time as my father’s special chow mein, it had a shrimp in it. I will now have to make sure on every order I state that I’m allergic to shellfish so they will know to cook it separately.”