The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it is exploring ways of reporting food allergic reactions directly to it amid growing support for a national allergen incident register.
It is also looking into how local authorities could be notified when a consumer reports an issue.
FSA senior communications manager Neil Murchison said: “We are aware of CIEH’s proposal for an allergen incident reporting system, or register, which would include both near misses and serious reactions.”
He added that a register of fatalities and severe medical incidents caused by food allergies is not directly within the remit of the FSA, which is why responses were being sought from the Department of Health and Social Care and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
He said: “The reporting system that the FSA is exploring, and which was referred to following the Ruben Bousquet inquest, is a potential way for people to report information about food allergic reactions directly to the FSA so we can build a better picture of the causes of these reactions.”
Meanwhile, allergy charities have been adding their voices to the CIEH’s register proposal.
Maggie Young, spokesperson for Allergy UK, said: “Allergy UK supports the proposal for a national reporting register, alongside clinicians and other stakeholders, to log incidents (both fatal incidents and 'near misses'), so that robust investigations can be carried out and they can be monitored.
“We believe that this approach can play a key role in informing education campaigns to help prevent these incidents, in the interests of our food allergic community.”
Hazel Gowland, director of Allergy Action, pointed out that teenagers are often reticent about talking about their condition or to catering staff about ingredients, which puts them at particular risk. She said: “I would welcome improved reporting.”
Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, who founded the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation with her husband Nadim, said: “Without a national register it is virtually impossible for the true picture of the allergy crisis to be seen and for the voices of those crying out for action to be properly heard.
“We strongly support the calls made by families, coroners, healthcare professionals,
leading allergen scientists and now CIEH for a national register of fatalities.
“We also believe the protection of the public in a country where more than two million have a food allergy requires the development of a Near Misses Register. A hotline enabling allergy sufferers and their families to record live incidents would enable national alerts to be issued and pro-active interventions by environmental health officers to prevent significant harms.”
Read more about calls for a national food allergen incidents register in the March issue of EHN (login required).