A quantitative study exploring the experiences of food labelling in restaurants and food packaging among adults who have food allergies

  • Emily Gray
Keywords: Food allergy, allergic reactions, anaphylaxis, survey


A food allergy is when the body’s immune system reacts unusually to certain foods. This can result in a person’s throat becoming itchy or swelling (NHS, 2019) and, in more serious cases, it can result in anaphylaxis. Food allergies can dictate how people live their lives because they have to avoid certain food premises if appropriate food labelling is not in place. In recent years, there have been increasing numbers of deaths in the UK due to food premises not having to list all ingredients on labelling in order to comply with UK law. Usually, food allergies that develop during adulthood are expected to be lifelong allergies (NHS, 2019). However, there is limited literature looking at adults’ experience of food allergies. The aim of this research was to explore the experiences among adults (aged 18 years and over) who have allergies with food labelling and how food labelling affects their daily life. The quantitative study used an online survey which was sent out to four food allergy support groups via Facebook. In total, 69 adults with food allergies completed the survey. The data from the questionnaire was analysed using Microsoft Excel to compare the participants different experience of food labelling in different food premises. The data collected were presented throughout the study in form of bar charts and pie charts. The main findings from the study show that there is not enough adequate information on food labels and that the font type and size affected participants’ ability to read the required information. The majority of participants (90%) reported they sometimes look the food labelling and a large proportion (70%) reported having had an allergic reaction (either in a restaurant or after buying food) when the food they are allergic to was not on the food label or ingredient list. As a consequence, 67% of participants reported they have avoided eating food from a take away due to concerns the food would contain the ingredient they were allergic to. Overall, the findings suggest that all the contained ingredients should be on food labels and not just the 14 food allergens currently required by UK law.