Devising regulations to keep the allergic consumer safe but not impose too onerous a burden on small outlets was always going to be difficult and potentially risky. Exempting small outlets from labelling every item of food and allowing them to use fridge stickers or word of mouth to tell customers about allergens depended on those outlets understanding the risks their food might present for allergic customers and being diligent in communicating that risk. When most of the food is made in front of the customer, that is probably just about workable.
However, extending that exemption to a chain that served thousands of products that were most emphatically not made in front of the customer was ludicrous. Pret sandwiches and baguettes are, in effect, retail products and should carry full ingredients labelling as would any other retail product.
Inexcusably, Pret made use of this loophole, presumably to save themselves the cost of ingredient labelling their products.
Worse: including sesame seeds in a bread product in which they would not even be visible, and which would carry no clear allergen warnings, shows a near criminal lack of allergen awareness. Stickers on fridges, even assuming that they have not fallen off, are simply not enough when dealing with potentially fatal allergens.
Similar views have been expressed by Allergy UK, from whom The Times (September 28) published a letter “calling for an urgent review of the allergy labelling regulations for large chains preparing food on their premises”. Action Against Allergy fully supports this need for action.