Online Ordering and Precautions for the Consumer with Food Allergies

Food delivery apps

Online ordering presents unique challenges and risks to those with food allergy and their carers. The dangers are highlighted in the case of a young father, who tragically passed away as a result of macadamia nut anaphylaxis after ordering online from a local restaurant.

See coroner’s report on the above case.

In Australia, food sold by restaurants, cafés and takeaway businesses is not required to have a label. However, it is required that food businesses either display the allergen content next to the food item OR provide the allergen information to the customer on request.

Menus, including those online, do not have to list ingredients or allergens, but businesses are encouraged to have this information available on their website in a format such as an allergen matrix. Consumers, however, should always disclose their allergy whether or not allergens are listed on websites, menus, buffets or food displays. In turn, food businesses must be able to provide clear, current and accurate information on the food allergen content of the food they sell/serve.

Ideally, websites should request that customers provide information on their food allergy/s before the order is finalised.  Some of the major food delivery services now ask that if a customer has a food allergy, they should phone the restaurant directly to confirm their allergy and discuss menu options.

Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA) is aware of at least one online food ordering and delivery platform which allows restaurants to nominate as “allergy friendly”. This service then allows a customer to disclose their allergy/s in writing on the order and request that a certain dish is free of an allergen. A&AA encourages those with food allergies to apply their allergen need to the whole order to avoid confusion about the order. If three meals in three plastic boxes arrive, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish which meal is which.

Note that A&AA is not aware of any training that “allergy friendly” restaurants need to undergo before they can nominate as “allergy friendly”. A&AA recommends that people with a food allergy when ordering food online should always also call the restaurant to disclose their allergy and confirm their online order.

When ordering food online consider:

  • some food ingredients for an item may be listed online, but this is often not comprehensive, so don’t presume it doesn’t contain an allergen
  • always declare your food allergy on the online order and confirm the meal items, disclosing your allergy again on delivery.
  • for accurate information about allergens as ingredients or risk of cross contamination, speak directly to the restaurant – remember to ask not only about cooking and preparation but also with regard to delivery and how cross contamination with other orders is avoided
  • if the restaurant staff cannot supply clear and concise information, take your business elsewhere.
  • general advice about ‘Eating Out’ is still relevant: -
    • avoid high risk venues eg. Thai restaurant if peanut allergic
    • phone at a time that is not busy so you are able to have a conversation with food service staff/the chef
    • don’t ask for a ‘guarantee’ that the meal is free of allergens, just request they ensure that the meal does not contain the allergen and that practices to avoid cross contamination are in place (separate cooking utensils etc)
    • ask if the staff have done Food Allergen Training

Content created March 2020

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