Newbury couple call for changes to food allergen labelling rules to help those suffering with oral allergy syndrome
A NEWBURY couple have started a petition to add more food items to UK allergen labelling rules.
Alexander and Hayley Harris from Clay Hill, Newbury, started a petition to legally require fruit and vegetables to be listed as allergens and to raise awareness about Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS).
Mrs Harris, 37, suffers from OAS (also known as Pollen Food Syndrome) which effectively means she is allergic to raw or undercooked fruit and vegetables and suffers with severe reactions that means she carries EpiPens at all times in case she reacts whenever she eats out.
Mrs Harris said: “Having OAS is really tough and I want people to realise that this is a serious condition.
“Using a knife to cut lettuce and then it touching cooked meat or foodstuffs can have a devastating impact for OAS sufferers as the condition is life-threatening.
“Some restaurants, like Cote Brasserie in Newbury, have been fantastic and I really cannot fault them but others do not listen and simply say they cannot serve us.”
Eating uncooked fruit and vegetables can result in OAS sufferers having an itchy throat or mouth or in extreme cases an anaphylactic shock, where swelling of the lips and throat restricts breathing.
Mrs Harris had an anaphylactic shock in March 2018 after eating a burger from a restaurant in Basingstoke and the restaurant chain’s staff have since gone on a training programme to mitigate cross contamination risks.
Mr Harris, 40 and a data scientist, added: “We're trying to raise awareness of this condition and to ensure that it has the same recognition as other allergies in the UK which would make a phenomenal amount of difference, not just to my wife, but to all sufferers of Oral Allergy Syndrome.
“This allergy makes our lives very anxious as we are always wondering when the next flare up might be and how severe it might be.
“Whenever we eat out it is such a gamble but it really doesn’t take much effort from food outlets to manage the situation through basic food handling practices.”
The couple have found that support from establishments is voluntary and have had to build relationships with owners and chefs in order to ensure Mrs Harris’s safety including calling restaurants to ask if they can accommodate the allergy and have been turned away by several restaurants because of it.
Currently the government requires food businesses to mention the 14 major listed allergens on labels or menus when they are used as ingredients in food.
If fresh fruit and vegetables are a listed allergen, food outlets will need to clearly label products, make staff aware of requirements, and avoid cross-contamination.
If the petition gains 10,000 signatures the government will respond and if it gains 100,00 signatures the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament.
Visit https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/586803 to sign the petition.