As the FSA launched its hard-hitting allergen awareness campaign aimed at SME businesses, Barnsley Council flagged expansion of its own allergen scheme that traces back to food premises that make customers ill.
A partnership has formed between the local authority and the city’s accident and emergency department, which alerts the council when a patient presents at hospital with a food-related allergic reaction. The council then goes back to the food business where the patient ate to investigate further.
Picking up businesses that need urgent support in this area can prevent repeat incidents, and save lives.
Christina Heeley, who manages Trading Standards at Barnsley Council, explained that a “simple referral form” is emailed from the hospital through to the council with details of the incident.
She said: “This signposting allows trading standards/environmental health interventions at food premises most needing investigation or advice on allergen management.
“We found a manageable number of referrals were made from this process. Some of these referrals resulted in much needed work with the food businesses to enable them to provide reliable advice to customers.”
The follow-up inspection checks food is accurately described and labelled, and that the business has systems and controls in place to provide accurate allergen information and prevent cross-contamination.
Barnsley is one of the first councils in the country running a scheme like this, and has attracted a lot of attention. Heeley said its success relies on support from the hospital. She said: “We were very lucky to have the support of James Griffiths, a consultant at Barnsley A&E, who originally set up the system at the hospital and continues to develop it.”
The scheme has expanded and the referral process has been opened up to GPs when patients order a new adrenalin auto injector. The hospital is now also developing a process to prompt clinicians to report a case to the council when they request an anaphylaxis blood test, as well as when they first treat an anaphylaxis patient.
Heeley added: “The Barnsley model is now all set up and could be replicated in partnerships in other areas. Barnsley would be very happy to share materials from its model, or their experiences of setting up the system with other local authorities (email firstname.lastname@example.org).”