What could Owen’s Law mean for the food industry?

Posted: 11 January 2024 | | No comments yet

With the FSA backing Owen’s Law, Juliet Moran considers how mandating allergy information on UK restaurant menus could improve safety for those living with food hypersensitivity.


By Juliet Moran, founder of Allergy Menu

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) have recently announced its support for Owen’s Law – a campaign to mandate allergy information on menus in restaurants and cafes in the UK. 

As it currently stands, there is only guidance in place to advise those in the food industry to include written allergy information on their menus. It is not currently a legal requirement. 

The Owen’s Law campaign was launched by Owen Carey’s family in 2017 following his fatal anaphylactic shock after consuming buttermilk from a chicken burger whilst eating out, despite telling the front of house staff about his severe allergies. 

Owen’s Law aims to change the law by requiring restaurants to clearly state the allergy information in all of their dishes, and specially write this information on the main menu for customers to clearly see. 

The campaign received thousands of signatures and in May 2023 was debated in government. The FSA have now discussed the allergen information proposals during its December 2023 board meeting. 

Now, the government body has confirmed their backing to the proposal and plans to write to the government about the matter. The FSA also said it would work on developing further guidance for restaurants on how to provide written information for food allergies. 

Changes on the horizon

This proposed change in the law will no doubt make a real change for the food industry, and for those suffering with allergies and intolerances. 

Currently there are around two million people in the UK who have a food allergy, intolerance or coeliac disease. For these people living with food hypersensitivity, going out for an evening meal or having lunch with friends could instantly turn to a life-threatening event. 

Owen’s Law may now make the dining out experience a lot safer and enjoyable for Brits living with food allergies. And as for the restaurants, food businesses may soon be able to worry less about providing the right information to their customer and feeding this back through front of house staff, and to the chef. 

In the experience of Owen Carey, communication was the fundamental reason why he was served the ingredient he was severely allergic to. 

If the changes come into play, all restaurants and food outlets will have to stay well informed on the food allergy information each dish contains. And with the customer clearly being able to see which items on the menu they need to avoid, the proposal is cutting out the need to have a no-fault line of communication back to the kitchen. 

The consumer would instantly be able to know which dishes to avoid without having to worry about this information being correctly recalled back to the chef from the front of house staff. 

“A bit switch up”

Owen’s Law cuts out the need for the customer suffering with an allergy to rely on others saying the right information to the right people. 

However, if the change in how food businesses supply allergy information to their customers goes ahead, it likely means a big switch up for restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, delis and other food outlets.

FSA says written allergy information should be a legal requirement

Businesses may struggle to supply the correct allergen information on their menus everyday, especially if any ingredients change at the last minute. 

Although restaurants can have the correct allergen information available on their written menus, if the supplier provides a different version of certain ingredients one day, or the manufacturing process differs from usual, it could mean that not all allergens are listed on front of house menus. 

This small change in ingredients could lead to a life-threatening or fatal allergic reaction from customers. It also means that the restaurant supplying the dish could get in hot water with the law.  

A word of advice

Even before Owen’s Law is made compulsory, restaurant owners should seek to provide accurate and up to date allergen information to their customers. 

Managing allergies is a real concern for everyone in the hospitality industry with bosses facing the potential of legal action if a customer suffers an adverse reaction. In extreme cases a restaurant manager could even face criminal charges if a customer who flagged an allergy went on to suffer an extreme reaction.

There are services available to food businesses which make the process of supplying the right allergy information to the consumer a lot easier. Services such as Allergy Menu allow the kitchen staff to upload which ingredients are in certain dishes and therefore provide the right allergy information. Back on the restaurant floor, the consumer can then straight away see which items on the menu they need to avoid. 

By placing the information in the hands of the chef, if any different foods are supplied that day, the kitchen staff can instantly change the allergen information, rather than relying on front of house staff to pass the message on to the consumer. 

It can cut out the need for a ‘middleman’ and supply the right allergen information directly to the customer with a centrally managed system. 

About the author

Juliet MoranJuliet Moran is the founder of and is passionate about helping businesses navigate food safety and customer care standards. She is keen to help others suffering with food allergies and intolerances when eating out, and with expertise in technology, wanted to solve real issues for business and consumers with a simple solution.

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