Consumer preferences for written and oral information about allergens when eating out

Fiona Begen, Julie Barnett, Ros Payne, Deborah Roy, M Hazel Gowland, Jane S. Lucas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)
135 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background
Avoiding food allergens when eating outside the home presents particular difficulties for food allergic (FA) and intolerant (FI) consumers and a lack of allergen information in restaurants and takeaways causes unnecessary restrictions. Across Europe, legislation effective from December 2014, aims to improve allergen information by requiring providers of non-prepacked foods to supply information related to allergen content within their foods.

Methods
Using in-depth interviews with 60 FA/FI adults and 15 parents/carers of FA/FI children, we aimed to identify FA/FI consumers’ preferences for written and/or verbal allergen information when eating out or ordering takeaway food.

Results
A complex and dynamic set of preferences and practices for written and verbal allergen information was identified. Overwhelmingly, written information was favoured in the first instance, but credible personal/verbal communication was highly valued and essential to a good eating out experience. Adequate written information facilitated implicit trust in subsequent verbal information. Where written information was limited, FA/FIs depended on social cues to assess the reliability of verbal information resources, and defaulted to tried and tested allergen avoidance strategies when these were deemed unreliable.

Conclusion
Understanding the subtle negotiations and difficulties encountered by FA/FIs when eating out can serve as a guide for legislators and food providers; by encouraging provision of clear written and verbal allergen information, and training of proactive, allergen-aware staff. This, in tandem with legal requirements for allergen information provision, paves the way for FA/FIs to feel more confident in eating out choices; and to experience improved eating out experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0156073
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume11
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2016

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