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Fatal Food Allergies: Are Brunel students in safe hands?

Photo by Emma Hughes

Recent media attention around 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died from a severe allergic reaction after eating at Pret a Manger, has left many people demanding changes to the rules on food labelling.

IKB Insider investigated at Brunel University to find out what measures on-campus catering outlet, Taste Kingdom, takes to ensure their food labelling meets health and safety standards.

Executive chef Malcolm Thorley said Chartwells, the catering service that runs Taste Kingdom, adheres to strict guidelines.

“Different recipes have separate containers and cooking spaces for allergies,” he said. “We have a set menu which lists all the allergies and is printed off daily. Anything made manually on site, we print the allergies, so all the staff know what is in the food… these meals are prepared and labelled with names and allergies so it’s all clear.”

Like Pret, all food outlets at Brunel University label ingredients according to legislation. However, that also means that the the outlets do not label any ingredient that falls outside the specified 14 main allergens for fresh food items.

“We only have to show the main 14 allergies which you can find online, but if for example your allergic to strawberries then we can’t do much about that,” said Mr Thorley.

Clubs and societies regularly hold Raise and Give (RAG) events on campus to raise money for charities.

Photo by Emma Hughes

Brunel Women’s Football Club held a Bake Sale for Macmillan Cancer Support on Friday 5th October. IKB Insider discussed the careful considerations that have to be made before these events are given the green light with RAG Officer, Megan Spoon.

She said: “It was very important that we took allergies into consideration, cakes are the most complicated in terms of allergies if you think about it, eggs, milk, nuts, the lot.”

“We ask the team to make and buy cakes without dairy, vegan options too. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the cakes and give back to charity.”

The Union of Brunel Students (UBS) requires all clubs and societies that are holding events where homemade food items are available to fill out a form, detailing all ingredients used and what action is being taken to ensure high risk ingredients are made safe.

According to the UBS, when the club or society cannot be ‘guarantee that the ingredients have never come into contact with nuts or nut-related products, it must display a prominent sign at the point of sale with the following: “ALL OUR PRODUCTS MAY CONTAIN NUTS.”

Megan Spoon added: “We label everything specifically and make sure when preparing we keep everything separate of each other, when dealing with food taking allergies into consideration is the first thing we think about.

“The football team want to cater for everyone, no point having cakes not everyone can enjoy.”

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