FSA says written allergy information should be a legal requirement

Posted: 14 December 2023 | | No comments yet

Following its December Board meeting, the FSA has confirmed that is backing the Owen’s Law campaign and believes written allergen information should be a legal requirement on menus, rather than just guidance.


The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced that it wants written allergen information be mandated in the non-prepacked sector, including on restaurant menus, and will be writing to Ministers to discuss its Board’s view.

Known as ‘Owens Law’, the campaign was initially started by Owen Carey’s family following him suffering a fatal anaphylactic reaction after eating a grilled chicken burger at a Byron Burger restaurant in London. The campaign was created to see a change in the law that “compels restaurants to state the allergens in their dishes, specifically on the face of the main menu”.

When ordering the restaurant in 2017, despite “having explained his allergies to the server and having no other information on the menu to the contrary, Owen Carey was assured would be ‘plain grilled’ and therefore safe for him to eat”, however the chicken burger had been marinated in buttermilk, something that he was “highly allergic” to.

After the campaign received thousands of signatures, the topic was debated in UK parliament on 15 May 2023.

Jumping to the present, the FSA discussed the proposals in its 2023 December Board meeting and has confirmed that it wants to make it mandatory for restaurants and coffee shops to publish allergy information on menus.

The FSA has said it will also be working to “develop strong guidance for food businesses on how to provide written allergen information to help drive up compliance and make it easier for people with a food allergy, intolerance and coeliac disease to protect themselves when eating out”.

In addition, the Board has highlighted that it believes there “should be an expectation for a verbal conversation to take place between customers and food business staff, to ensure an added layer of protection for consumers”.

Commenting on the FSA backing ‘Owen’s Law’, Professor Susan Jebb, Chair of the FSA shared: “At the FSA we are committed to making lives better for the two million people who have a food allergy, food intolerance or coeliac disease.

“In today’s discussions, it was clear that the Board feel that we should set an expectation that food businesses like coffee shops and restaurants provide allergen information in writing as well as having a conversation.”

Jebb emphasised the Board understands that in order to “maximise the likelihood of this happening, written information should be a legal requirement, rather than just guidance.”

“I will write to Ministers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and contact my counterpart at Food Standards Scotland to discuss the Board’s position as the Board would like to see them take this forward on a four-country basis,” continued Jebb.

“Meanwhile I want us to do all we can in the FSA to provide guidance and support to business so that we can quickly start to make improvements that will be helpful for people with food hypersensitivities when they are eating out”.

Jebb also took the time to thank the Carey family for “all their work in highlighting the importance of this issue” .

Speaking to New Food about the FSA’s announcement, Paul Carey, father of Owen, said that he “welcomes the FSA board’s decision to write to ministers recommending that the provision of written information detailing allergens in restaurant food is made mandatory through changes in the law”.

Paul went on to state: “We look forward to hearing the government’s acceptance of this recommendation.”