Comment from Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, trustee, Action Against Allergy.

Thanks to Panorama‘s sleuths (BBC1 Jan 14) it has been revealed that many of the meals delivered via Just Eat, the biggest of the on line food delivery apps, come from outlets with zero knowledge of what a food allergen might be, let alone which food allergens may be in the food that they serve. Well, no surprises there then…

But, as with the Pret a Manger issue earlier this year, Just Eat are operating perfectly within the law: they do not sell food, they are delivery service. It is the responsibility of the restaurants whose food they deliver to provide allergen information to any customer who asks. If the restaurant fails to do that, or fails to do it accurately, this is not Just Eat’s fault.

And they are also right when  they say on the ‘What  if I have an allergy?’ page on their website, in answer to the question ‘Why should I have to contact the restaurant if I have a food allergy or intolerance? Why can’t Just Eat check?’
‘The only person who can tell you exactly what’s going into your food is the chef cooking it for you. Even if we confirmed a restaurant’s menu was suitable for people with food allergies or intolerances, they could always change their ingredients at a later date. Then we’d be giving you out-of-date information. We don’t want to take that risk with your health’.

However….. Is that good enough?

While their point above about keeping up with changes in menus and ingredients is a perfectly valid one, do they not have a responsibility to ensure, before they take on any eatery, that that eatery is operating with the law? Namely that the eatery not only knows what the 14 major allergens are, but understands that they must be able to provide accurate information about whether any of those allergens appear in the food that they are offering their customers.

Given the poor hygiene ratings of the a number of the outlets visited by Panorama, it would appear that it is not only their allergen knowledge that Just Eat fails to check but their basic knowledge of hygiene. In both cases, there could be significant risk to a customer being served an ingredient to which they were allergic or an hygienic food.

Given the possibly fatal consequences of either, we believe that it is the responsibility of every organisation working within food service – even if they are working, as is Just Eat, at one remove from the kitchen– to ensure that the food they serve (or deliver) is hygienic and that accurate information is provided.