App alerts chefs to danger of potentially fatal allergens
People with serious food allergies will, in future, be more likely to be served meals which do not contain ingredients which will trigger a potentially fatal reaction.
A new online and mobile compatible app is being made available to 22,000 food service businesses which will allow them to identify allergens such as gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, celery, eggs, fish and shellfish.
The MenuCal app, which also contains a calorie calculator, was developed by the Food Safety Authority.
There is now a legal onus to display allergen information in all food businesses, including restaurants, pubs, takeaways, contract caterers and food stalls.
Launching the app, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said: "Many people with allergies have to be extra careful when they eat out. Last year, I made it compulsory for food businesses to label allergens on non-prepacked food products.
"This new MenuCal facility is a really useful online tool that reminds businesses about allergens when they're calculating the calorie content of their menus. I'm delighted that other countries are now looking to adopt it. I hope it makes life easier and safer for both customers and food providers."
Around 3pc of the population has a food allergy and reactions can vary from a skin rash to a life-threatening attack.
The app, which allows for calories to be counted, was first tested in the canteen of Cherry Orchard Hospital in Ballyfermot in Dublin.
It led to staff cutting down on their lunchtime portions.
Women's calorie intake went down from 635 to 551 and men's from 812 to 622 when they were confronted with the number of calories they were consuming.
Extra resources including a leaflet and FAQs are also available by visiting its website www.fsai.ie.