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How dangerous can food allergies be?

By Katrina Elsey

Published In: Personal Injury

Eating out is a treat for many of us, but for those with food allergies, it can be a source of anxiety. A severe allergic reaction can have devastating consequences, making it essential to understand the risks and necessary precautions.

Photo of food allergens

What is a food allergy?

A food allergy is an immune system response triggered by eating a food protein you are allergic to.

Severe allergic reactions can be life-threatening, causing an shock, which leads to swelling of the lips, tongue, and windpipe, making breathing difficult.

Challenges for allergy sufferers

Matthew Eley, a managing director from Manchester, has a severe nut allergy and shares his experiences of  dining out.

In one instance, despite informing restaurant staff about his allergy, he suffered a severe reaction after being assured the food was safe. His experience highlights the lack of awareness and understanding among some restaurant staff.

Matthew ensures when visiting a restaurant that he tells them about his nut allergy - but is this always taken seriously by the restaurant? Speaking with Katrina Elsey , senior associate in our Personal Injury team, Matthew comments:

“Having had a severe allergy my whole life I’ve grown very familiar with the do’s and don’ts when going for a meal and also what to look for when it comes to restaurant practices.

“My last severe reaction was just over seven years ago.  I was 18 when I went to an Indian restaurant with a friend. I told the restaurant about my nut allergy when I arrived and also informed my waiter when deciding what to order. Both times I was reassured that there were no nuts in the dishes and that it was completely safe to eat. After just one mouthful I went into shock and despite my friend informing the restaurant what was happening, staff simply laughed at me thinking the food was ‘too spicy’ for me. This simply served to demonstrate the lack of awareness and understanding of allergies and the consequences they can have. Since then I've been incredibly careful, both when choosing where to go out to eat,  but also in spotting any red flags when eating as someone with a severe allergy.

“I feel it's incredibly important for modern restaurants to ensure they fully understand allergies and the impact they can have. They should also aim to fully understand the processes and procedures they need to take when catering for someone with an allergy. Things as simple as stocking EpiPens and having a member of staff trained to be aware of allergies (which is a legal requirement for restaurants in the UK), and a clear allergen guide. All of these are things that would go a long way to ensuring the safety of people with a severe allergy.

“I'm always so careful about letting everyone know about my nut allergy because I'm aware of how severe the consequences of an allergic reaction can be for me. I shouldn't have to feel as though I'm putting my life at risk every time I eat away from home.”

 If you have severe food allergies, it is always recommended that you carry two pens with you at all times. Epinephrine pens, such as Auvi-Q or Epi-Pens, are used in case of anaphylaxis.

Katrina Elsey comments: “Restaurants, takeaways and other establishments selling food need to be more vigilant about the ingredients contained in their products. Failing to take adequate care when preparing food, particularly when someone has already notified you of a food allergy, can have severe consequences and can sometimes be life threatening. As Matthew has stated, he's still been exposed to nuts despite telling restaurants about his allergy. It’s crucial that establishments take extra care. They should also ensure that if someone does go into shock from exposure to nuts, their staff can recognise the symptoms quickly and know exactly how to deal with it.”

Starting the allergy reaction compensation claims process

For more information about how Switalskis can help you to make an allergy reaction compensation claim, call us on 01302 320621 or email


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Katrina has over 25 years’ experience in the legal sector. She is a Senior Associate Litigation Executive in the Personal Injury department.

Senior Associate Litigation Executive

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