News & Updates

New campaign to encourage young people to talk about food allergies

  • 44% of people with a food allergy who responded to the new FSS survey wouldn’t always mention it to the person they’re buying food from in a restaurant or café
  • The main reasons given for this by 12-18-year-olds (if allergy information isn’t visible), are because they don’t want to make a fuss, don’t think it’s important to tell staff or are embarrassed to say
  • Only around half (49%) of those who need to carry an allergy pen or auto-injector (such as an Epipen, Emirade or Jext) always carry one with them
  • 40% of those with a food allergy don’t always check the ingredients labelled on the food they buy or order to make sure it’s safe
  • Around one in 10 of people with a food allergy who responded to the survey worry about it a lot, and the same number have been teased or bullied because of it

A new campaign from Food Standards Scotland, supported by Allergy UK and Young Scot, launches today (27 February). The campaign encourages young people with food allergies across Scotland to discuss their food allergies with friends, and when they’re eating out and about, and to remember their allergy pen if they need one.

A survey from FSS run in partnership with Young Scot, revealed that 44% of people with a food allergy wouldn’t always mention it to the person they’re buying food from in a restaurant or café.

It also suggests that 12-18-year-olds wouldn’t always tell the person they are buying food from about an allergy either because they don’t want to make a fuss, don’t think it’s important to tell staff or are too embarrassed to say.

One in 10 of people with a food allergy who responded to the survey said they worry about it a lot, and the same number have been teased or bullied because of it.

The campaign highlights the importance for young people to make others aware of their food allergy, and to check food labels and menus when they’re eating out to ensure the food they choose is safe. It also reminds people to take their allergy pen with them if they need one.

Jacqui McElhiney, Head of Food Protection Science and Surveillance at Food Standards Scotland, said:

“Being aware of food allergies and talking about them is vital. Our campaign encourages young people to tell others about their food allergies and to check food labels to make confident choices about their food, as well as carry an allergy pen if they need one.

“Our survey suggests a need for greater awareness about the seriousness of food allergies, and that young people may be reluctant to discuss their allergies with others for fear of causing a fuss or standing out from the crowd.

“28% of the people who completed our survey have a food allergy. This highlights how common they are, but many people without food allergies may still not be aware of the serious impact they can have on people’s everyday lives. Food allergies are different from food intolerances as they can cause allergic reactions and can be life-threatening.”

Carla Jones, Chief Executive at Allergy UK, commented on the campaign:

“We believe that this is a really important campaign which connects directly with young people with food allergies on the importance of telling their friends and other people about their allergy when eating out and the things that they need to do to keep safe. This kind of communication plays a key role in raising better awareness and, perhaps more importantly, better understanding of food allergies and what it is like to live with one. 

“We wholeheartedly support this campaign and hope that it will encourage more young people with food allergies in Scotland to help keep themselves safe by talking about their allergy and sharing, without embarrassment, this information which is crucial when they are eating out.”

Case study

Sixth-year student, Eilidh Davidson (17) from Glasgow developed a tree nut allergy at 14 years old. She now carries an allergy pen to use in the event she inadvertently is exposed to nuts.

She said: “The symptoms can be quite severe, my tongue and lips can swell and I can be sick for hours. It also seems as if my symptoms are getting worse as I get older and I need to make sure I have my allergy pen just in case.”

Going out with friends and having fun is an important part of any young person’s life, and Eilidh has learned to manage her food allergy.

She explained: “I don’t really get embarrassed about having a food allergy. I just think of it as something that I and lots of others deal with.

“Over the last few years, I’ve figured out easier ways to deal with it at restaurants, which can be a big help. One thing I would really recommend is to always let the person serving you know about your food allergy.

“Even if the normal menu has allergen warnings, they often make an added effort to avoid cross-contamination with food that you’re allergic to if they know about it in advance.”

Read the full case study

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