The trading standards service of Torfaen County Borough Council has released the results of its investigation into the risks posed to consumers with food allergies from drinks purchased from vending machines.
During their investigation between April and September 2020, the service visited ten businesses in the Torfaen area in Wales that sold hot drinks dispensed from vending machines.
They found serious failings in the provision of allergen information and also found cross contamination of milk to products that did not contain milk as an intended ingredient.
Statutory food allergen information
The investigation concluded half of the businesses they visited were not providing consumers with statutory food allergen information as required by The Food Information Regulations 2014.
Of the businesses that were providing allergen information, investigators found that it was either incorrect, inadequate or difficult to find. In the case of information that was provided verbally, staff could not confidently confirm the correct allergen status of the products.
The investigating team also submitted drinks purchased from all ten vending machines to a laboratory for analysis. The results showed two of the drinks that were not supposed to contain milk had detectable levels high enough to cause a reaction in the most severely allergic individuals. Both of the contaminated drinks came from businesses where the only source of allergen information was orally via members of staff.
The report highlights how food and drink that is not pre-packed and is sold from vending machines is failing to meet the legal requirements for allergen information and allergen hygiene.
Commenting on the report, the Anaphylaxis Campaign said vending machine manufacturers and operators had to understand their legal responsibility to provide statutory allergen information allowing consumers to make safe choices.
If there was a risk of cross contamination that, despite all best efforts cannot be eliminated, it had to be adequately communicated via precautionary allergen information prior to purchase, the organisation said.
“We commend Torfaen Trading Standards for undertaking this important piece of work and highlighting the potential risks to consumers with allergies from non-prepacked vended products," said Anaphylaxis Campaign chief executive Lynne Regent.
"Allergic consumers need to be on their guard when purchasing from vending machines and if adequate information cannot be provided about allergens, don’t take the risk. Any concerns should be reported to the local trading standards so they can be investigated."