Grieving mum warns allergy law not enough
THE anguished mother of tragic schoolgirl Emma Sloan says new laws forcing restaurants to put allergy alerts on all menus "won't do enough to save lives".
Caroline Sloan's 14-year-old daughter died on a Dublin street last December after accidentally eating a peanut-based sauce in a restaurant.
And while she welcomes new EU-wide food labelling rules aimed at allowing people at risk make safer choices, she insisted "much more needs to be done to make a real difference".
Under new rules, coming into effect on December 13, all restaurants, pubs, cafes and delicatessens will have to inform customers if any of their meals or food dishes contain any ingredients from a list of 14 that could cause a serious allergic reaction.
The potential allergens include nuts, shellfish, eggs, fish, soya bean products, milk, celery, mustard and sesame seeds. The list also includes gluten, which cannot be tolerated by people with coeliac disease.
The rules also apply to food sold from counters in shops, takeaways, contract caterers, food stalls, work and school canteens.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ms Sloan said the only way "real change" will come about is if the law is changed so that life-saving Epipens - a special allergy injection - are made easily available in public places.
"It needs to go a step further. Epipens need to be everywhere and in every first-aid box," she said.
"Education is also crucial - especially for parents of children who suffer from allergies. I was never told Emma could die from this allergy.
"These laws will bring awareness to the issue, but they won't save a life in an emergency situation."
The new EU-wide food labelling rule has been signed into law by Health Minister Leo Varadkar. He said: "The impact of allergens on sufferers can range from irritation to a life-threatening reaction."
In the most serious cases, a person has a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis which can lead to death.
Mr Varadkar pointed out: "Although allergens already have to be declared on pre-packed food, there is no such requirement for loose or non-prepacked products."
The measure was signalled in 2011 to allow outlets lead-in time and guidelines have now been published which were drawn up in co-operation with the food industry.
The biggest problems are likely to be faced by restaurants which frequently change their dishes, and by smaller pubs.
Last year there were 65 admissions to hospital of people suffering from a food allergy.