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  1. ITV Report

Allergy sufferers' lives put at risk by restaurants and takeaways

Some 58% of those with allergies have had reactions due to contaminated food, according to a poll for law firm Slater and Gordon Photo: Paul Mayall/PA

More than half of allergy sufferers have had their lives put at risk by contaminated food from restaurants and takeaways, a survey suggests.

Some 58% of those who took part in the poll say they've had a reaction after eating food that staff had assured them was safe to eat.

A total of 1,000 allergy sufferers were surveyed by law firm Slater and Gordon at the beginning of April.

The firm represent the the parents of nut allergy sufferer Megan Lee. The 15-year-old died on New Year’s Day 2017 from an anaphylactic reaction after she unknowingly ate peanuts in a meal from the Royal Spice takeaway in Lancashire.

Megan Lee died from an asthma attack after she ate food from the Royal Spice takeaway in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire Credit: Family handout/PA

The teenager and her friend ordered online via the Just Eat website two days earlier and wrote “prawns, nuts” in the comments and notes section.

However, the delivered meal was later found to have the “widespread presence” of peanut protein.

The takeaway owner Mohammed Abdul Kuddus, 40, and manager Harun Rashid, 38, were jailed for manslaughter by gross negligence.

Harun Rashid (left) and Mohammed Kuddus were found guilty at Manchester Crown Court of unlawfully killing Megan Lee by reason of gross negligence. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

What were the survey results?

Of the 58% of those who had a reaction due to contaminated food, here's how they dealt with the situation...

30%
Managed their symptoms with medication
10%
Needed a doctor
7%
Needed emergency hospital treatment

Over half of those who had a reaction said they were either ignored, not taken seriously or accused of being "fussy".

Those who took the survey also said they had suffered reactions despite taking precautions which included:

48%
Asked staff before their meal if they contained the food item that triggers their allergy
44%
Stuck to familiar dishes which they had eaten before or knew should not contain their food allergy
42%
Researched menus online to try and avoid contaminated meals
40%
Actively checked the ingredients in the meal that they chose
31%
Stuck to the places they know and have eaten at before to try and reduce the risk

Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 42% admitted they no longer eat out or order takeaways to avoid risk, while 6% said they take their own food to restaurants.

59% said people had confused their allergy with an intolerance.

Shane Smith, a lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: “These results are astonishing. Most of us have a friend or loved one with a potentially fatal allergy, yet so many restaurants and takeaways still seem to regard it as being of little importance.

“For those with an allergy it is not a choice but a serious condition which could kill them if ignored.”

Mr Smith added: “One change we would like to see is for public liability insurance to be made mandatory for all establishments preparing and serving food to the public, with strict conditions to encourage them to take allergen control seriously.

Megan's parents, Gemma and Adam Lee, agree and say staff should be better trained, businesses should be inspected annually and labelling should be better.

“It was a catalogue of failings that let her down and, although I do think things are improving slightly, it’s nowhere near where it needs to be.”