Council and hospital work together on non-fatal food allergy A&E cases

Food Standards Agency (FSA) representatives have visited Barnsley to see how the council’s Regulatory Services Team is working with Barnsley Hospital as part of a coordinated approach to food allergens, and the system the council has in place with the hospital for reporting incidents of food-based allergic reactions.

Around 18 months ago, Barnsley Council set up a pathway of referral from Barnsley Hospital so action can be taken when food allergic reactions take place after eating at a commercial food business. 

The Chair of the FSA Board Heather Hancock and Senior Policy Advisor, Allergy and Food Intolerance, Hannah Rose, found out more about how, if someone presents at accident and emergency with an allergic reaction and has eaten from a commercial food business, this information is sent through to Regulatory Services so that an investigatory visit to the premises can take place.

The model complements the programmed inspection work already taking place. When food premises are inspected, part of the inspection can include making sure the food they sell is accurately described and labelled, and checking the business has systems and controls in place to provide accurate allergen information and prevent cross-contamination with allergens or anything else that shouldn’t be in the food.  Food businesses have a responsibility to ensure the food they serve is safe and is what it says it is.

Using the accident and emergency model enhances this work as it signposts food officers to those businesses that need urgent support, potentially preventing a repeat occurrence from happening. This referral system is one of the first of its kind in the country and is receiving attention from other local authorities with a view to rolling out a similar system in their areas.

Dr James Griffiths, consultant in emergency medicine at Barnsley Hospital, said: “This collaborative project between Barnsley Hospital and Barnsley Council ensures issues with potential food allergens are being dealt with in a timely fashion to reduce the risk of serious and fatal anaphylactic reactions.”

Cllr Jim Andrews, Cabinet Spokesperson for Public Health at Barnsley Council, said: “We welcome any information from residents about any allergic reactions, businesses that are providing poor information about allergens or any near misses they may have experienced. We want everyone to be able to order food confidently, wherever they eat in the borough. People can email or call 773743.”

Heather Hancock, Chair of the Food Standards Agency Board, said: “I was delighted to visit Barnsley and meet colleagues on the front line of keeping people with food allergies safe.  Food allergy is one of the Food Standards Agency’s highest priorities. The local authority, Barnsley Hospital and the Health Protection Board are national leaders in this area.  We can now share their expertise and good practice with others, so that businesses step up to their responsibilities and protect public health in this vital area.”

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