Serve Legal and Anaphylaxis UK – Survey reveals young people living with food allergies face significant difficulty and disruption when trying to eat out in the UK
In a survey of young people conducted by Serve Legal to mark the start of Allergy Awareness Week, data revealed that almost half of respondents living with an allergy feel that restaurants and food retailers need to do more for people with allergies; with 45% also stating that they have been made to feel like an inconvenience due to their allergies or dietary requirements when ordering food in a restaurant or food-to-go business.
The survey was conducted within Serve Legal’s nationwide community of engaged young people, with the majority falling into the 16-25 age category. This age group is significant as evidence shows that young people are often more vulnerable to restaurants and food retailers non-compliance with allergy safety policies as they may have recently moved away from parental support and are navigating their allergies independently for the first time.
Of the 800+ respondents to the survey, 305 stated they had an allergy or dietary requirement. The key findings from the survey data reveal that young people living with allergies face significant difficulty and disruption when trying to eat safe food outside of their home:
- 46% feel that restaurants and food retailers do not take allergen safety seriously enough.
- 45% have been made to feel like an inconvenience to the restaurant or food retailer due to their allergy or dietary requirement.
- 60% have avoided eating out due to their food allergy, with 22% of these respondents stating that they avoid eating out either ‘often’ or ‘always’.
- 14% have been turned away from a restaurant or food retailer, or asked to sign a waiver, as a result of their food allergy or dietary requirement.
- 87.5% stated that they would leave a restaurant or food retailer if they were not confident in the allergen safety checks and information provided.
Serve Legal’s data also revealed that TikTok was the third most popular source for young people finding information about how to safely manage their allergies, behind seeing a medical professional and searching on health-related websites.
This result raises significant concern when considering the recent viral ‘allergy food challenge’ trends on TikTok which see primarily young people eating the food they are allergic to as part of the challenge.
This Serve Legal allergy survey was conducted in collaboration with Anaphylaxis UK whose mission is to support people living with serious allergies. Anaphylaxis UK’s Chief Executive Simon Williams commented on the results:
“These findings reveal that many food businesses require significant additional support in catering to individuals with serious allergies. While some businesses are making efforts to comply with allergen safety measures, it is evident that a substantial number are falling short. We firmly believe that individuals with allergies deserve to be warmly welcomed into restaurants, with staff who are thoroughly trained, comprehensive information for customers, and robust safety protocols in place to ensure their confidence in dining out.”
The respondents to the survey were also given the chance to provide additional comments about their experiences of eating out with food allergies. Several common themes arose from this data with representative example comments being:
- “My friend suffers from a severe peanut allergy, and on multiple occasions has refrained from purchasing something as the staff did not seem sure about the allergy safety practices.”
- “My mum has severe allergies and very recently she went into a restaurant/chain and was not asked if she had allergies. She had to have a dish modified to remove what she could not eat but only some members of staff were aware of this. When her food arrived, the ingredients that should have been taken out, had not been taken out. This would put me off returning to this place with or without my mum as they don’t have a good understanding of allergies.”
- “If staff seem uneducated or don’t have clear allergen information it has put me off eating there.”
- “All of my friends were going out I had to miss it because I always get sick after eating the ‘allergen-free’ food.”
- “I avoid eating out as it’s easier to be safe at home”.
- “I visited one place where they were very blasé and made me feel like a nuisance for asking questions about the kitchen practice /safety standards.”
The findings of this survey demonstrate the importance for all food retailers, large and small, in having clear and robust allergy management policies which are consistently followed and well communicated to allergic customers in all branches.
Serve Legal are currently supporting many hospitality and food-to-go businesses in the UK with their Customer Experience Allergen Audit service which helps retailers to monitor and improve staff compliance with vital allergen safety polices. If this service could be beneficial to your business, get in touch with the Serve Legal team via https://www.servelegal.co.uk/get-in-touch/business-enquiries/
Anaphylaxis UK is a leading charity that provides support and information to people with serious allergies. Our mission is to save lives by improving the recognition, diagnosis and management of serious allergies. Anaphylaxis is a serious and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur suddenly and without warning.
We work to raise awareness about anaphylaxis and offer extensive resources, including information on how to manage anaphylaxis, how to recognise the signs and symptoms and how to prepare for emergency situations. With our commitment to improving awareness and education, we strive to create a safer world for everyone with serious allergies. https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/