Cumbria County Council’s Trading Standards team brought the case against the food manufacturer and wholesaler when a county-wide sampling project uncovered undeclared peanuts in a chicken tikka masala product supplied to two takeaways in Cockermouth.
Peanuts can cause severe allergic reactions that can result in death.
When Trading Standards officers visited Fiza Spice and Indian Spice, they asked the takeaway owners whether the chicken tikka masala product contained peanuts. The owners told them the products were peanut free.
Samples of the product were removed for testing, which found peanuts to be present in both products.
A complex investigation followed, which established that wholesaler Euro Foods had supplied ground nuts (peanuts), instead of almond powder as requested, to another wholesaler which had, in turn, supplied the two takeaways.
Trading Standards service manager Angela Jones said: “Trading Standards are satisfied that this verdict, and this case, highlights the importance of labelling food correctly.
“Peanuts are a cheaper food to source than almonds, and it is absolutely unacceptable that the almonds were substituted and sent to the takeaway outlets, which are not at fault. In the worst case scenario, the actions of Euro Foods could have been life threatening for some people. We were lucky in this instance that no peanut allergy sufferers were affected by these incorrect supplies.”
Allergy UK’s director of clinical services Maureen Jenkins told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Food allergy is a serious, sometimes life-threatening condition, which should not be underestimated. Sufferers of food allergies often meticulously study food labels in an effort to manage their condition and avoid a reaction.
“Correct food labelling is vital to help sufferers keep their symptoms at bay, even the smallest error could be potentially life threatening for someone with a severe allergy. A person may be safe to eat one type of nut, but not another.”
‘Alarming’ rise in allergies
It’s a problem that food manufacturers need to be increasingly aware of as allergies are rising at an “alarming” rate, according to Allergy UK.
Jenkins said: “Allergies to peanuts and tree nuts are the most common food allergies in adults and children. Peanut allergy is becoming ever more commonplace, with recent studies showing that the rate of peanut allergy has doubled over a five-year period both here in Europe and in the United States.”
Prior to the first publication of this article, FoodManufacture.co.uk made several attempts to contact Euro Foods for comment but the food manufacturer did not return any calls or reply to emails.