A concept photograph of a no entry or prohibited sign really engraved into a jar of peanut butter

The press has recently reported that restaurant owner Mohammed Zaman has been found guilty of the manslaughter of Paul Wilson who died after eating a curry containing peanuts.

Mr Wilson specifically asked for a peanut-free curry from Mr Zaman’s restaurant, but was given a curry that contained peanut powder. The court was shown how Mr Zaman’s cost cutting had led to almond powder being swapped out for peanut powder – without informing staff of the change.

The laws on allergen labelling and information are very clear, and the law was recently condensed into the Food Information Regulation (FIR). Put simply, the FIR states that there are specific ingredients that must always be brought to the attention of the consumer, without exception. Peanuts (which are legumes) are a common ingredient to which people can be allergic and is one of those ingredients specified by the FIR.

To aid with compliance, the Food Standards Agency has created a useful guide to allergen ingredients.

While labelling on packaging and in menus is straightforward (allergens must be highlighted, usually achieved by putting the ingredient in bold), the notification of a diner at a restaurant or street food market is perhaps trickier to achieve.

In order to resolve this issue, businesses should put a system in place which notifies consumers of allergens that are contained within products – going further, staff should be able to identify which products contain allergen ingredients, and regular updates should take place when suppliers, chefs or business owners change ingredients to products. In the sad case of Mr Wilson, those final steps were not achieved, with devastating results.