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Slow progress of food allergen law sparks concern among sufferers

Slow progress of food allergen law sparks concern among sufferers

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Slow progress of food allergen law sparks concern among sufferers

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Allergy sufferers have criticised the slow progress made on plans to update Jersey's Food Law with comprehensive allergen labels, with one sufferer saying the "lack of regulation" makes it "really difficult" to enjoy culinary experiences in the island.

Last year, the Environment Minister introduced a new Food Law to modernise food regulations, while also promising to develop "secondary" legislation that would include allergen labeling requirements.

Deputy Jonathan Renouf responded to inquiries about the progress of food allergy legislation earlier this month, confirming that ongoing efforts are in place, with plans to pass the new law next year.

However, allergy sufferers have criticised the lack of progress.

Some sufferers have recently rallied together to form the 'Jersey Food Allergy Group' to "share experiences, and make food shopping and dining safer". 

The group is "also pushing for better food allergy regulations".

"Really difficult" for allergy sufferers

Lisa Creevy, an allergy sufferer from Scotland now living in Jersey, shed light on the challenges faced by those with allergies on the island compared to the UK.

As well as being allergic to nuts and lupin, Lisa is also allergic to fenugreek.

She explained that this unique allergy to an ingredient not widely recognised as an common allergen becomes problematic when establishments do not provide complete ingredient lists.


Pictured: Lisa Creevy says "lack of regulation" makes it "really difficult" for someone with allergies to enjoy culinary experiences on the island.

Even though there is a law in Jersey against food misrepresentation, and some establishments do provide allergy information, Lisa explained that it doesn't do much to help people with uncommon allergies as they are not listed as allergens on food products. 

She said she often feels “really awkward” when having to request ingredient lists from hospitality staff, and "anxious" that the information might be incorrect. 

Lisa recently experienced an allergic reaction due to accidental exposure to nut milk in her coffee, which she says has left her wary of ordering coffee out again.

The allergy sufferer highlighted the significant impact severe allergies can have on a person's quality of life and their enjoyment of culinary experiences, as she struggles to feel safe when eating or drinking out in the island.

Advocating for stricter regulations 

Lisa also pointed out that the longer it takes for the allergen law to be enforced, the more people are at risk of experiencing allergic reactions.

She believes that implementing allergen laws could motivate hospitality staff to be more cautious, ultimately reducing the chances of accidental order mix-ups.


Pictured: Lisa now feels unable to enjoy coffee out with her friends due to the risk of another allergic reaction. 

Lisa emphasised the importance of meticulous attention when dealing with allergens like nut milk, which can trigger "life-threatening" anaphylactic reactions, often leading to hospitalisation.

Lagging behind the UK

The delay in introducing the secondary law has left Jersey trailing behind the UK and EU in having explicit food allergy laws.

In the UK, it become compulsory to highlight allergen information on pre-packaged food in 2014 – almost a decade ago.

'Natasha's Law' was also implemented in 2021, making it mandatory for food retailers to provide customers with comprehensive written ingredient lists for 'pre-packed for direct sale' (PPDS) food.

This change was spurred by the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperous in 2016 due to a severe allergic reaction. 


Pictured: PPDS food refers to items that are packaged at the same place that they are sold to consumers, and are in this packaging before being ordered or selected.

Natasha – who was extremely allergic to sesame – bought a PPDS artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette from a Pret store at Heathrow airport. It did not have any allergen advice on its wrapper because, as it was made on the premises, it was not required by law at the time.

However, the sandwich had sesame seeds baked into the dough of the baguette. Natasha then began to feel ill whilst on a flight to France, and suffered a cardiac arrest. Despite her father administering two EpiPen injections, she died later the same day. 

Deputy Renouf justified the slow progress of Jersey's food allergen law by pointing out that, in the meantime, domestic legislation already addresses issues like misrepresenting food, such as falsely claiming a product is safe for an allergic consumer when it is not.

He also explained that most pre-packaged food in Jersey comes from the EU or UK, which has a substantial level of consumer protection.

Restaurants "unwelcoming" for those with food allergies

Dominic Jones – a local restauranteur and the parent of a young child with a life-threatening allergy – expressed his support for the introduction of local legislation on social media, emphasising how it would promote transparency and create safe, inclusive dining establishments for individuals with food allergies.

He highlighted the potential customer base represented by individuals with food allergies and the positive outcomes that can result from accommodating them, including enhanced risk management and brand loyalty.

He said: "With up to three million potential customers in the UK suffering from food allergies... we wouldn’t make a restaurant unwelcoming for those in a wheelchair or with other access requirements, so why do so for those with food allergies?"

Deputy Renouf affirmed the Government's commitment to developing specific allergy legislation.

He said that the process includes continued consultation and input from the hospitality sector and stakeholders.


Pictured: Deputy Jonathan Renouf, Minister for the Environment.

The Environment Minister intends to present allergen-related regulations to the States Assembly in the coming year, alongside other secondary legislation related to the Food Law, including food hygiene. 

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