3 Feb 2020 04:24
Published by: Scott Callan


16 food samples tested by Stockport Council contain potentially fatal hidden allergens, research by and the Times has found. 

Out of 65 food samples taken by Stockport Council, 16 contained traces of allergenic substances that could prove harmful or even fatal to those suffering from food allergies.  Across England, the figure was 861 of 4271 - more than 20 per cent. 

Samples were taken from food premises including hospitals, schools and care homes.  In each case there was no indication of the allergen’s presence in the food product. 

The problem is likely to go even further than the figures indicate as despite a number of high-profile food allergy deaths in recent years, the number of food samples tested for allergens fell by over a quarter during the period 2016-18, with 20 Local Authorities across the UK taking no allergen samples at all.  

Emma Rose, Director of, said: 

“These figures show that there is a real postcode lottery when it comes to food sampling.  In the worst case scenario, unknowingly consuming an allergen can prove fatal - and that’s why the law requires food businesses to tell people what allergens their food contains. 

“But regulation is only as good as the enforcement that underpins it.  And it’s clear that in the case of UK food law, the enforcement gap is looming large.  Cuts in staff and funding have stretched regulators to breaking point, and the fall in enforcement activities is putting lives at risk”. 

The proportion of failed results from these Local Authority samples will be higher than would be the case from random testing, as councils may target poorly performing food businesses, or take samples following tip-offs from the public. 

The fall in sampling in the last three years is part of a wider long-term decline in total food sampling, which has plummeted by nearly 60 per cent since 2009, according to analysis by  Food law enforcement staff numbers have fallen by a third since 2009, and there are now just three staff in post per 1000 UK food establishments. 

Food Standards Agency figures show that around 10 people die in the UK each year as a result of undeclared allergenic ingredients. 

Dr Hazel Gowland, leading expert in food allergy risks,  said: 

“This is critically important work. The presence of unlabelled allergens in a range of foods is potentially life-threatening for increasing numbers of consumers with allergies, intolerances and coeliac disease. Sampling by local authority food officers and testing by public analysts are essential to ensure food is safe and labelling is correct. These results are a major concern, indicating the urgent need for additional local authority resources to protect consumers.”  


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