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Do I have a food allergy claim?

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Jonathan Speight

Panel Senior Litigator

A guide to making a No Win No Fee food allergy claim

An estimated two million people in the UK have food allergies, including 6 to 8 percent of all children. According to the Food Standards Agency, around 5,000 people are hospitalised each due to allergic reactions to food.

Wheat, dairy products, peanuts and seafood are among the foods most likely to evoke an allergic reaction. Symptoms vary from person to person but typically include an itchy red rash (hives), stomach pain and facial swelling. In the most serious cases, a person may enter anaphylactic shock, which can be life-threatening.

The majority of food allergy-related hospitalisations are caused by restaurants and takeaways giving misleading information about the allergenic ingredients contained in their food. Anyone who suffers an allergic reaction to the food they have purchased may be eligible to bring a food allergy compensation claim.

What does the law say?

The Food Information for Consumers Regulations came into force in the UK in December 2014. The Regulations are designed to make it easier for allergy sufferers to find out about the presence of any allergenic ingredients in food when eating out.

Restaurants and takeaways, as well as shops that sell pre-packaged foods, must now warn customers about the main 14 food allergens that are present in the food they serve to customers. These are:

  • Celery
  • Cereals containing gluten
  • Crustaceans (prawns, lobster, crabs, crayfish)
  • Molluscs (clams, mussels, whelks, oysters, snails and squid)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Lupin
  • Mustard seed
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soy beans
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, pistachio nuts)
  • Peanuts
  • Sulphur dioxide (sometimes used as a preservative in dried fruit.)

In pre-packed food, allergens must be listed on the food label. Restaurants and takeaways have flexibility in terms of how they deliver the allergy warning. For example, details of the allergens may be written on menus or explained verbally by staff.

Who is liable for a food-related allergic reaction?

In general, any business that serves or sells food is responsible for ensuring the health and safety of their customers. As with food poisoning from vans and restaurants, if the establishment created a food containing one of the 14 major allergens, and did not warn customers about it, then the establishment could be liable if the customer falls ill.

To establish liability, the injury lawyer would have to show that:

  • The food consumed by the Claimant contained a known allergen
  • The establishment did give an appropriate allergy warning
  • The Claimant suffered an allergic reaction as a result.

If the allergic reaction was not immediate, for example, a rash did not develop until several hours after the food was consumed, then the injury lawyer must also prove that the food containing the allergen was consumed at the particular restaurant and was not purchased elsewhere. 

What if I did not tell restaurant staff about my food allergy?

Restaurants and other food seller must warn about the presence of the 14 major allergens regardless of whether the customer notifies them of a food allergy. The fact that a customer fails to mention a food allergy will not prejudice their claim.

However, if the customer is allergic to a different ingredient - one that the restaurant does not have to warn about - then the customer is responsible for notifying staff of any food allergies before eating. Customers who did not alert staff of their allergy may still bring a claim, but the Court may decide that the Claimant is partly responsible for their own injuries and apportion blame using a split liability agreement.

No Win, No Fee food allergy claims explained

A food allergy No Win, No Fee claim commences after the Claimant signs a CFA (or Conditional Fee Agreement) with a solicitor.

The agreement explains the work executed by your lawyer and a success fee to be taken from your award once your solicitor wins the case.

You have no hidden charges when choosing a a Quittance injury-specialist solicitor. You can prioritise your recovery, knowing that there will be nothing to pay up front.

How to proceed

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