Hot drink vending machines found to pose allergen risk
A local council investigation in the UK has highlighted the dangers of using hot drink vending machines for consumers with allergies.
The trading standards service of Torfaen County Borough Council in Wales, UK has released the results of its investigation, which ran from April to September 2020. The organisation visited 10 businesses in the Torfaen area that sell hot drinks dispensed from vending machines, to assess possible risks posed to consumers with food allergies.
The report found serious failings in the provision of allergen information, as well as cases of cross contamination with milk.
Half of the businesses the council visited did not provide consumers with statutory food allergen information as required by The Food Information Regulations 2014. Of the businesses that were providing allergen information, investigators found that it was either incorrect, inadequate or difficult to access and, in the case of information that was provided verbally, staff could not confidently confirm the correct allergen status of the products.
The investigating team also submitted drinks purchased from all 10 vending machines to a laboratory for analysis. The results showed that two of the drinks that were not supposed to contain milk had detectable levels that were sufficiently high to cause a reaction in people with severe milk allergies. Both of the contaminated drinks came from businesses where the only source of allergen information was orally via members of staff.
This report highlights how food and drink that is not pre-packed and is sold from vending machines is failing to meet the legal requirements for allergen information and allergen hygiene.
It is vital that vending machine manufacturers and operators understand their legal responsibility to provide the statutory allergen information that enables consumers to make safe choices. If there is a risk of cross contamination that cannot be eliminated, despite all best efforts, this must be adequately communicated prior to purchase.
Commenting on what consumers can take home from this research, Lynne Regent, Anaphylaxis Campaign CEO, said: “We commend Torfaen Trading Standards for undertaking this important piece of work and highlighting the potential risks to consumers with allergies from non-prepacked vended products. Allergic consumers need to be on their guard when purchasing from vending machines and if adequate information cannot be provided about allergens, don’t take the risk. Any concerns should be reported to the local trading standards so they can be investigated.”