The Food Sensitive Community: not fair game for political point-scoring

Top chefs attack EU rules on allergens in food reads the Telegraph this morning, to a collective sigh of frustration from those with food allergies, coeliac and intolerances, whose lives (in the case of those living with potential anaphylaxis) don't appear to be as important as the 'spontaneity, creativity and innovation' of the chefs which is supposedly being stifled by EU FIC 1169/2011 - the '14 allergens' labelling laws.

This latest salvo appears to have been co-ordinated by anti-EU campaign group Business for Britain, whose poorly informed take on the matter can be read here*. They say that the laws require

" ... caterers and restaurant owners to conduct a comprehensive audit of every ingredient present within their dishes, which must then be displayed on menus ... "

Comprehensive audit? They just need to be aware of what they are putting in their food. There is no requirement for the allergens to be displayed on menus, but allergens included must be available on request - even verbally, provided verifiable in writing.

On a day when BfB have accused Gordon Brown of scaremongering, they appear curiously oblivious to their own pot-kettle-blackness. They quote Prue Leith and the "bureaucratic nightmare" in which we find ourselves, where "damage" is being done to industry; there's somebody from Patisserie Valerie talking about "jobs at risk". No evidence in support of these is offered. The letter which BfB's CE Matthew Elliott sent to Jeremy Hunt even talks of 'significant sums of money' being required for 'entirely rewriting menus' or even 'hiring additional staff'. Especially disappointing is Thomasina Miers calling it a "fiasco", unfortunately demonstrating her ignorance in declaring the onus of responsibility in asking about allergens is on the 'allergee' - which the law makes allowance for anyway.

Michelle at Foods Matter has already composed a response, and as I write this, the CMPA Support group have done likewise. Allergy charities have expressed their disappointment. I'll add further links at the foot.

A lot of people are angry, and although there's no productive point in feeling this way, so am I. I'm angry that a privileged group of Eurosceptics consider it appropriate to exploit the food sensitive community in order to further their own anti-European agenda. Thankfully, the EU laws will not change and - at least at present - we are firmly in the EU. These facts will no doubt stick firmly in the craw of Business for Britain, and for that I'm suddenly immensely cheered.

* Link no longer valid. Business for Britain's letter to Jeremy Hunt can be read here, and the signatories can be seen here.

Posts / Responses:
* Michelle's Blog - Top Chefs Attack EU Regulations ... Again!
* CMPA Support - Top Chefs Attack new EU Allergen Laws.
* The Intolerant Gourmand - What are the 'Top Chefs so Afraid of?
* Ruth Holroyd (WhatAllergy) - Top Chefs attack new EU Regulations on allergens in food
* Allergy UK - Top chefs comment on food labelling regulations 
* The Food Allergy Hub - Top Chefs attack EU allergy labelling - a mummy's rant!
* Food Standards Agency - Letter to The Telegraph 
* The Anaphylaxis Campaign - Chefs Say FIR 'damaging creativity' 
* Coeliac UK - Response to comments from chefs on new allergen rules
* Dairy Free Baby and Me - 100 Chefs - Why I'm not Bovvered ...

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