A fifth of Brits believe they have a food allergy – yet one in six are unable to identify any allergens within common food groups according to a recent study.
Only 43% of those surveyed correctly identified tree nuts as an allergen in pesto, whilst just 48% knew tofu was made from soybeans and nearly a third did not know milk was the allergen in yoghurt.
However, eight in 10 agree it is important that new food legislation is introduced to protect those with severe food allergies out of home.
The new study commissioned by GS1 UK – the global provider of interoperable standards which cover 90% of UK retailers – calls for extra transparency from the entire food industry to protect people and businesses.
The research comes just two months ahead of Natasha’s law coming into effect this October.
The new legislation will require all food businesses to provide full ingredient lists and allergen information on foods pre-packaged for direct sale in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Yet, nearly two thirds (61%) of adults were unaware of its existence.
GS1 UK agrees that Natasha’s law is certainly needed, but it is the start of a journey and if the entire food industry collaborates – not just pre-packaged food for direct sale – it can help empower consumers and save lives via greater transparency.
A clear indication that information needs to become more accessible is that of those with a food allergy, social awkwardness means that 62% do not feel comfortable asking about allergens in dishes when eating out and would rather ‘take the risk’ instead.
Meanwhile, the shift to online shopping has caused confusion for many. Consumers are more than twice as likely to understand everything that is inside a product when shopping in store, compared to online – pointing to the problems caused by current irregularities in how consumers are expected to consume vital food information.
Currently, 42% ‘trust’ large brands to accurately label their products with allergen information, more than smaller brands. However, a third would trust a brand if they knew a brand had recalled products in the past due to contamination or misleading information on packaging.
Anne Godfrey CEO of GS1 UK commented: “Natasha’s law is much-needed and will undoubtedly increase transparency in the food industry and protect consumers. Yet, our research shows that transparency should not be limited to pre-packaged items. Existing technology has the potential to drive transparency across the entire industry.”