Allergic reaction at The Allergy Show

Well isn’t it ironic
Don’t ya think
A little too ironic
Yeah I really do think…

It’s like lurpak butter, on your gluten free bread
Cakes with nuts, next to ones that are nut free
It’s the dairy freeeeeeee, macaroni cheese
Next to the normal stuff, I mean, really? Please?

It’s the gluten free sauce with wheat pitta to dip
Plates of biscuits and cake with no allergen labelling
It’s the staff on the stands without an allergy between (them)
If you work at the Allergy Show – you should know what allergy means!

I know it doesn’t quite scan but that song has been ringing in my ears all weekend.

My visit to The Allergy Show 2012 didn’t quite go how I’d planned it. I had a very nasty experience and ended up having a thankfully, mild, allergic reaction, but this still left me with my neck, scalp, shoulders, back and face covered in large, itchy hives and the afternoon spent with paramedics being monitored to ensure my reaction didn’t turn into full blown anaphylaxis, because believe me, I was well on the way.

Just because you’re at The Allergy Show you still need to keep your guard up, check, check and check again. Do not, under any circumstances, eat anything that you have not first asked about the ingredients, preferably also read the ingredients, and made yourself comfortable that hygiene and safety on the stand are sufficient that you’ll be OK.

The irony of having an allergic reaction at The Allergy Show is not lost on me. I’m annoyed at myself for letting it happen, but also a little annoyed that even now, with this amazing show growing and becoming so popular, buzzing and busy, that people working on the stands still do not quite grasp the seriousness of allergies.

Allergies can kill. They do kill. Thankfully only on rare occasions but they can kill. That threat lies on my shoulders every day. Some days heavier than others, and it’s a very frightening feeling.

Allergies are so serious and fast acting that even a tiny trace of an allergen can make someone very ill. Allergies are not to be sniffed at.

I was a little sad and disappointed that I saw a few dangerous things going on some stands:

Gluten free, nut free, dairy free products that people couldn’t try due to dairy-containing spreads

Lurpak with gluten free bread at allergy showStands with delicious looking gluten free bread with ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ or ‘Lurpak’ or other dairy containing butter or spreads, next to stands who had managed to purchase some Pure sunflower spread or similar safe dairy free margerine.

This is an allergy show after all.

By using butter you alienate many of your potential future customers. You also risk the chance that someone may pop a piece of lovely gluten free bread into their mouth not realising it has butter on it. What if that person has a dairy intolerance, an allergy or even gets anaphlaxis to dairy?

They’ve just tried some on the stand next door which had dairy free spread. Is it their fault that they haven’t checked? Are you making ALL customers aware they should NOT try your samples if they have a dairy allergy?

So you offer bread dry too, without the spread. Good? Not if you’re cutting the bread up in the same preparation area as you are buttering the other samples. Who is checking that no butter gets onto the plain bread samples? It’s just so scary to me. I asked on one stand, so what is this? Is it gluten, dairy and nut free? I’d already spotted the butter. “Yes” they smiled back, without a clue that it’s irrelvant for the bread to be dairy free if you then put butter on it. One man was quite rude to me, replying, “it’s not butter it’s margerine!” So I calmly replied, “Read the tub. Just because it’s called, ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ does NOT mean it’s freefrom dairy.” How many people made a mistake on these bakery stands?

This is not the stand helper’s fault. If you hire in staff and you care about your freefrom brand and standing in the allergy and gluten free community it’s vital that you understand the needs of your customers and give your staff and anyone helping on the stand some basic training.

At every stand where this was taking place the onus was on ME to ask and check. Perhaps that’s fair enough, and I did check, every time, but at an allergy show I think there should be far more effort put into large, prominent signs explaining what’s what. Who should try your stuff and who should steer clear? I saw kids grabbing at samples and just prayed they didn’t have allergies. I know if I was a parent with my child I would make sure they didn’t just grab stuff, but kids are kids, and if they’ve been told they are at an allergy show they might think, “Well I’ll be safe here.” Kids are smaller and it takes a smaller amount of allergen to cause anaphylaxis. If you had a stand at the Allergy Show please, please consider this if you take part again.

We all know butter tastes better but we can’t all eat it because we are allergic. There is no excuse in saying you didn’t have time to get some freefrom spread, there was a large supermarket just around the corner. I’m willing to put money on them stocking freefrom spread. This show should be about showing those with allergies and those without that freefrom food can and does taste really great. There were loads of people there with their friends and family. It’s just the place for educating them about the precautions that should be taken.

You can’t tell by looking at us what we are allergic to so please, please, please make your stand as safe as you can and never give a sample to anyone without asking what they can and cannot eat. Maybe we should all wear a big badge with a list of all our allergens? Why not also have a large print sign with the ingredients of each product so it’s easy and quick to check?

Free from products lined up next to allergen containing products with no labelling

Many stands had a great range on offer and I know not everyone is allergic to as many things as me, but far too many of us have more than one allergy. Multiple allergies are definitely on the rise and so I actually think it’s very careless and negligent to do this without also making your visitors aware.
Cross contamination worry at Allergy show
I appreciate that not every product can be freefrom all major allergens, but it’s simple and easy to tell visitors, then they can make the choice of whether to take the risk and try something new. Most stands were doing this but not all.

Some people may be able to try things if they only have an intolerance or a mild allergy and think they’ll be OK. It’s a risk that some people might take if armed with all the facts. However, some us, like myself, have very serious allergies. People with coeliac disease would be very, very ill if they ate even a tiny crumb of wheat or gluten, just as someone with a serious allergy could have an anaphylactic reaction to a drop of milk or a tiny trace of peanut.

I wouldn’t try anything from a stand with any of the things I’m allergic to displayed on it if they were not in sealed packaging. Freshly prepared food made in a tiny exhibition stand kitchen could easily get cross contaminated, and when these samples are in small unlabelled pots even the servers on the stand could make a mistake. You can’t tell from looking at food what’s in it. I’d rather not take that risk.

So perhaps participants at the show might choose not to bring the products along that contain the top 13 allergens. Noone wants to get ill at the show and certainly no company would ever want to make a customer ill. It doesn’t matter where you think blame should be apportioned, mistakes do happen, so let’s learn from them and take precautions to stop them happening EVER AGAIN.

Which leads me onto my little mishap. Or should I say big catastrophe. It certainly ruined my day.

I tried something.
I checked the packaging.
Spoke to the staff at the stand.
Met the owner.
Smelt it. Checked again. I asked them, “Is this really gluten and dairy free?”
It seemed too good to be true, but it was one of the most amazing things I tried at the show.
Really tasty and I look forward to trying it again.

A few stands later I could still taste it. I wanted more! I thank God that I was with my friend Tanya, who also happened to be my specialist allergy dietician. I had just met Tanya minutes before, quite by chance, and I left her at a chocolate stand to go back for another taste.

My greed was my undoing. I had enjoyed the sample so much, but when I went back and asked if I could have some more of the sample I’d just had because it was so delicious and I hadn’t been able to eat it since I was a child… of course they were very obliging and handed me a pot of what looked like the same thing.

A little cardboard pot, tiny, with only a few mouthfulls in it.
I had one spoonfull and I knew. That tingling in my lips.
The throat getting itchy, but it was too late already, I’d swallowed it before I could spit it out.
The panic. The dizzyness. The fear.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Not here. I thought. Not now! I’d been so careful.

But unbeknown to me this company make a normal vegan and organic version of the product and another with rice milk and gluten free pasta. If I had been told this, alarm bells would have begun to ring. If I’d also known that these two samples were side by side in the display cabinet I would NOT have tried it, even though I still might have been OK, it’s a risk I would not take.

One pot containing milk and cheese right next to the one that was dairy and gluten free. The pots were not labelled and they were lined up not even a milimetre away from each other. But I hadn’t been told this. Assuming that the freefrom one I’d just tried was the only product of its kind on this stand I hadn’t known to check and ask for the particular freefrom sample. One bite was enough. I am thankful that my reactions are so swift. I knew instantly that something was up and stopped eating it. I rushed back to the stand and asked them what I’d just been given.

They confirmed, smiling all the time, that it was just normal pasta with milk and cheese.

I have no idea why a company would even bring a ready meal containing gluten and normal dairy milk and cheese. It’s not a vegan and organic food show, it’s The Allergy Show. It shouldn’t have even been on their stand and it certainly shouldn’t have been handled the way it was, disguised, hidden, next to the gluten free and rice milk alternative.

“WHAT?” I gasped. My throat by now tingling. The blood rushing to my head. My heart pounding. Dizzyness swirling around me. “I’m allergic to dairy…” I just left the pot on the stand and Tanya took control. I took two anti-histamines (the ones I take a really strong) immediately and used my inhaler as a precaution. I wasn’t feeling asthmatic but my previous experiences have seen very fast deteriation in my breathing. I was terrified and inside I was panicking. My heart was racing and I was very near to tears. I could feel that tingling feeling and the hot rush under my skin.

I am sure this swift thinking saved me from a worse reaction. My antihistamines are VERY strong and worked really well. It took about 45 minutes for me to feel like I was slowly getting control back and by then my neck, shoulders and back were covered in hives. My scalp felt like one huge itching blistery mass. Why do I never take a photograph when it’s at its worst? By the time I got home the swelling and hives were almost gone. I am still suffering today, three days after the show, with stomach pains since the gluten is blocking me up. My skin is still sore around my mouth and lips and I have bad eczema on my neck, back and arms where I couldn’t resist the urge to scratch the hives.

I would like to thank the paramedics at the show for looking after me so well. I was able to sleep it off, knowing that they were keeping an eye on me, and when I left the show a few hours later I was a bit swollen, feeling decidedly dodgey in the tummy department, but otherwise OK. I hadn’t had to use my EpiPen which I was very glad about.

I would also like to thank the organisers of the Allergy Show who I know spoke to every stand to alert them to possible issues with cross contamination and awareness of the seriousness of allergies.

A challenge to all exhibitors – do you accept?

I know there were other incidents at the show and I hope noone was seriously ill from theirs. None of these allergic reactions should have happened – not at an Allergy Show. They were all avoidable.

I have a challenge for the show organisers and exhibitors for next year and also to all visitors to remain vigilant, yes, even at an Allergy Show.

I would like to see much better understanding of allergies and the seriousness of them. I would like to also challenge you all to ensure that we have a totally safe show in Liverpool and next year.

That means no allergic reactions. None! No, not even one! One is too many.

This show should be a safe place for those with allergies who find it so hard to eat out.

I don’t want to see any of the perils we have discussed above happening next year.

So what if you have to say the same thing over and over again, and ask every visitor what their allergies are.

I don’t care.
If it saves a life or a horrible painful few days for an allergy sufferer or coeliac it’s worth the extra effort.

I also don’t care that visitors should have to do this too. It’s your safety at stake here. Don’t eat anything if you’re not 100% sure it’s safe for you. How will I avoid a similar incident? Sadly I’ve decided I won’t be trying out new stuff in future. Not unless the stand can really convice me they care enough about my safety.

I just want the next show to be completely allergic-reaction free. We have a way to go but it’s totally possible.

So, did you exhibit this year? Will you accept the challenge to guarantee that your stand will be totally safe, or as safe as it could be? Are you willing to accept that you may have made mistakes and to learn from them and improve the next time you exhibit?

What extra precautions will you be taking? Will you promise me and all the other visitors that your products and samples will be clearly labelled and that any staff you hire will know the basics about allergens and coeliac disease?

Did you attend the show and suffer an allergic reaction or a near miss? Did you get glutened? How many people only had a mild reaction and didn’t tell anyone on the stand? I’d love to hear from you, please all share your experiences so that we can feed everything back to the show organisers for next year. A simple Allergy Protocol for each stand to adhere to would really help.

On the whole it was another fantastic show. It was busy, packed with people and I discovered some totally amazing new products, which will be the subject of my next blog. After the lowlights of the allergic reaction let’s move on to the highlights…

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.

Comments

  1. Totally agree about the labeling. First time at the Allergy Show and surprised at the lack of information from stall holders. I have quite a few allergies so it was easier for me to look at the packaging, which wasnt always easy as not always on display.

    The standard response from a lot of stalls was its gluten/dairy free but were unsure of other ingredients. A couple of places i asked the ingredients and was told the base ingredients then ‘flavourings and colourings” – this is’nt very helpful as we all now the dangers that can lurk within these titles.

    For stalls that have more than one product signage with ingredients would be difficult, but they could have lists of all products that show ingredients so that we could check ourselves. Also handy post exhibition when planning shopping at home.

    Was also surprised at the prospect of cross contamination, I think the responsibility really should be on the stall holder to ensure their staff are educated.

    • I have multiple allergies too and I would never expect the show to avoid all of them but there were some pretty basic mistakes being made. I agree also that cross contamination was rife. I would hope companies wishing to be taken seriously in this area will take notice. I will be sending a link of this blog post to all guilty parties!

  2. sarah chapman says:

    I was there for the very first allergy show, its was, as is now, filled with nut biscuits, and high risk foods. There is always free samples given out and in that respect, cross contamination is a consideration for those visiting.
    the first allergy show had all the alternative practitioners , some even had huge signs declaring that they could cure anaphylaxis. The campaign and allergy uk have at least used their influence in that direction to halt that sort of madness.
    The cookery book woman was eating nuts while selling her book , and when asked why she was eating nuts, she said what nuts? very disconcerting to have a nut free cookery book writer who didnt recognise a tree nut when she was eating it. I still hope that woman was just joking…
    The IGG people were there last year, helping people with rather useless testing, but we all have to agree that placebos work for some….
    The best thing about the show is the presentations, the charity stalls and decent companies that shine out with their knowledgeble product selling.
    I do think that balloons have been reomoved from the show, and they dont at least blow them up, but still , the latex charity stall is there and reducing the risk of latex should be something the allergy show can organise effectively. Perhaps they could produce a guideline for staff training on stalls to reduce cross contamination, and of course improve hygeine.
    last year i found a milk free child aimed choc bar with a may contain milk label, when questioned to stall holder by me ‘is this milk free’ they said yes. I pointed out the label and the woman looked shocked and read it. For the first time apparently. I took this problem to the anaphylaxis campaign and i am sure they have worked with the company. I have only taken my son once when he was younger to the show, and found myself watching him closely. But then, i am a bit stressed and over concerned at times….!!!

    • Nothing whatsoever wrong with being stressed and over concerned. If I go again I’m now so stressed and over concerned I shall not be tasting a single morsel. Bit of a shame really but I’m not going there again. Not if I can help it. Not only was I dairyed, but I was also glutened.

  3. Funnily enough I’d just pressed the button on a post moaning about precisely the same things when I came across this piece.

    Very well said – I agree with every point you make and I’m just sorry you had to suffer a reaction as a consequence. Frankly, I think the Allergy Show is a shambles and think the more people that make their voices heard the better.

    There are some very good, very knowledgeable, very well qualified and well meaning people who exhibit so this is in no way to tar all stands with the same brush – but there are some appalling lapses of judgment both on the part of the organisers and some of the stallholders.

    It suggests that the whole affair is about making money and very little else besides. Which is a huge shame because some of the keynote speeches and some of the produce on offer is great – but all of that is overshadowed by the shit stuff. So pleased you blogged on this too.

  4. I just had to share this blog post from Alex at Yes No Bananas Blog, a new one that I’ve just discovered that is just brilliant. It’s entitled, Allergy Show My $*@! http://yesnobananas.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/allergy-show-my/

  5. Incredible the number of uninformed ‘helpers’ on stalls.
    I just took to walking straight up to stalls, picking up the packaging and reading the label. The ‘helpers’ proved to be ‘hinderers’ and I was better off checking for myself.
    Great article Ruth. I am hopeful that out of your experience comes a positive outcome. You may well have saved a life! Let’s try and get this message heard everyone!

    • Sorry I missed you at the show to Jenny. It was heaving wasn’t it?I think the uninformed helpers and the sheer number of visitors meant things got forgotten. Let’s hope that everyone at the show learnt from this lesson. We ALL need to check, check, and check again.

  6. Hi Ruth, I hope you are feeling better now. What an awful experience for you and “too ironic!”.

    I have just shown this post to my daughters and when my youngest saw the pack of Lurpak butter she gasped and said “that’s ridiculous, why didn’t they have the special spread we use” (we use Pure spread) and that’s from a 7 year old!

    I hope that following your unfortunate experience the organisers will ensure that the next Allergy Show will be a safer place for everyone.

    • Hi Dib. I’m feeling much better now thanks. It was a pretty awful experience for such a well informed and experienced allergen avoider such as myself, but accidents happen. Your 7 year old would have been very helpful on some of those stands. Sometimes needs a childs simplistic outlook. I think a lot of stands were thinking purely ‘gluten free’ and I’m all for gluten free, but many coeliac and allergic people either can’t tolerate dairy or are allergic. Ditch the Lurpak Warburtons! and if you scan down lower in the comments there is one from the event director which is very positive and encouraging.

  7. Hi Ruth,

    I am the Event Director of The Allergy & Free From Show. It was great to speak to you yesterday and, as promised, I also wanted to draft a comment for your blog. Your detailed account of your experiences of the show leave so much to comment on, but I will try and be as concise as possible.

    Firstly, I was deeply saddened to hear that you endured a reaction at the show. As conveyed over the phone, this really is upsetting for me and my colleagues and is, of course, the last thing we want any visitor to the event to have to go through at our show. Our objective is to create a forum that both educates and entertains in equal measure, and for the show to be a positive experience for all attendees. Your experience was clearly to the contrary, so for this I apologise.

    I would like to thank you for your constructive critique of your experience at the event. It is so important that we receive this feedback, as it enables us to make the necessary improvements that ensure the show grows in a positive way and delivers the most enjoyable, safest visitor experience.

    As you rightly convey, the seriousness of allergies cannot be underestimated by us, nor any of our exhibitors, at any time. Organising and exhibiting to a high standard (particularly in terms of key areas such as product labelling and stand staff advice to visitors) is incredibly important, and must be maintained from the minute the show doors are unlocked on the opening day, to the very last minute on the final day.

    Regarding onsite interaction between exhibitors and visitors, the onus should not be all on you (as a visitor); a two-way street is critical in this department. It is true to say that visitors to the show are the best informed with regard to their own personal circumstances and must, therefore, take a degree of responsibility regarding their onsite interactions. However, simultaneously, all exhibitors must be equally vigilant, and ensure that their stand staff are adequately trained to advise on their products and that these products are prepared safely and displayed clearly. We communicated this fact to all exhibitors pre-show and on every single day the show was open, via conversation, statements delivered to all stands, and regular tannoy announcements heard by all exhibitors.

    As organisers, we love working on this event, and pledge to continue to work hard to progress it further still. The show is a far cry from what it was, and we hope you agree that it is now vastly superior to the event we took over at the end of 2009. We will never stop trying to improve the show and this type of feedback is so important to me and all the organising team.

    How will we improve? We must take key learnings from this incident and do more to work with exhibitors. We will increase the number of communications to our exhibitors pre-show, regarding the need for vigilance at all times. We will ensure exhibitors subscribe to (and sign) a code of conduct regarding their exhibiting practises prior to the event. We will ensure the exhibitor section of our website has more communications on this point and includes the aforementioned code of conduct. We will increase the number of onsite communications to exhibitors regarding the need to maintain high standards at all times. We can also improve our communications to visitors on these points, via portals such as the website and show guide, and through onsite signage.

    Furthermore, as discussed when we spoke, I would gladly participate in an interview for your blog, should you deem this to be a worthy feature, as I am extremely keen to get across to visitors how seriously we take their experiences at the event.

    Kind regards,
    Tom Treverton
    Event Director
    The Allergy & Free From Show

    • Hi Tom. Thank you for calling me the other day to see how I was, I really appreciated it. I’m almost back to normal now. It’s great to see such a well thought out response with such a thorough list already of potential safe guards and processes that could help educate all concerned. There is always room to improve and we should all be learning. Let’s all help to make Liverpool and 2013 even better. Not sure about bigger – this one was pretty huge and crazy busy. There was a frenzy for free stuff after the Free From Awards demo. Quite scary what people will do for free stuff.

      I also look forward to meeting up again soon and I would love to interview you. Who is the face behind The Allergy Show? I for one am very interested to find out more.

  8. Hi Ruth

    Glad you are feeling better now and as an exhibitor who’s business is free of all Top 14 Allergens, I would also like to see more done that everyone can enjoy the show for the reason it was set up…also happy to see Tom’s response and the additional measures being looked at….happy to help too in any way we can….xx

    • Hi Michelle. Weird how these things get you. I felt tired on Sunday, but Mon, Tue and Wed were far worse. It all broke out over my skin in a delayed reaction. Much better today though and more exhibitors should take a leaf out of your book. See you soon. Ruth

  9. Hi Ruth,

    I’m so sorry to hear you were unwell and was really shocked to hear that this happened at the show. Of all shows for this to happen at as well!

    I think the problem could have been due to helpers and temporary stall staff. This shows how important it is for businesses like mine NOT to employ temporary staff who are not fully educated to man a stall at the show.

    I’m sorry you had such a rotten weekend and hope you get back to normal very soon.

    Best wishes,

    Charlotte

    • Hi Charlotte. Yes, that and the sheer number of visitors made it really hectic. Despite that it was amazing to see such a huge amount of people there. Just shows the industry is thriving and growing. Next year I’m concentrating on the talks and leaving the food for the gannets ;o) (oh well I guess I might find time to try a few things…)

  10. Did anyone begrudge paying £3 for a show guide and stand plan? I know most people all got in free and now I’m writing this I do feel like a tight wad…

  11. Sadly, I am not surprised, Ruth. Long ago, I stopped going to shows like this because of the risk. I never try anything at them and am generally appalled by the lack of care and knowledge I see from many; it saddens me and I end up feeling depressed by the shows. It’s the same in every day life, but you would expect it to be different at an allergy show, wouldn’t you? I l gave up that expectation years ago but I do still live in hope!

    So glad you coped and are coming out of it. Sending a healing hug x

    • I can’t blame you Micki, but I do find them a great networking opportunity too so I’ll be focusing on the talks and meeting up with bloggers next year. Managed none of that this year since nearly the first stand I visited did that to me!

  12. Hi Ruth –
    I am so sorry that you had to go through all that – but hugely relieved that yours and Tanya’s speedy action prevented full blown anaphylaxis…. I fully sympathise with everything that has been said above – and indeed with much of what Alexa says on YesNoBananas – and in terms of awareness, you are absolutely right – it was dire….

    I have added a comment to the report on the show that will go onto the Foods Matter website later today which I am copying in below. But the real problem is, as I am sure you are totally aware, that the exponential growth in ‘freefrom’ (which has brought so many more excellent allergen-free foods onto the market to the benefit of allergy sufferers) has been fuelled not by allergy sufferers but by those who choose for health or lifestyle reasons to eat ‘freefrom’. For them, potential contamination is not only not a matter of life and death (as it is for you) but of very little concern. And as more and more main stream manufacturers move into the area to supply these new freefrom consumers, while the product developers and manufacturers are fully aware of and comply with safe allergen manufacturing requirements, the sales and marketing people – and certainly those working on stands at exhibitions – really do not understand the background at all. Education, education, education……

    This is what we said on site:
    ‘However….. While the show was a huge success and greatly enjoyed by the vast majority, some of the more acutely allergic visitors were more than unhappy about the number of ‘allergic’ foods on offer, the general lack of allergen control and the significant risk of allergen contamination on many stands.

    Organisers of any ‘allergy’ show have a huge problem in this area. Not only are there are an enormously wide range of foods to which allergic visitors could react but what is a major allergen for one visitor (nuts) can be a staple food providing significant nutrition for another (a coeliac) – and vice versa. So, excluding all possible allergens would not only mean that they could end up with very few foods that could be exhibited at all but that many visitors would not get a chance to find foods which would be excellent for them because they would be a potential allergen for another visitor.

    Allergen control, though is a different matter. The organisers are acutely aware of the potential contamination risk and are anxious to alert stand holders to these risks and to the importance of allergen control on their own stands. But despite their best efforts, the responsibility for ensuring that the food on offer is ‘safe’, especially if it is ‘freefrom’ food, has to lie with the exhibitor, and many stands left a great deal to be desired in this area.

    There has been much comment in the blogosphere on this – see What Allergy? And YesNoBananas to name just two – and it is to be hoped that exhibitors will read and take serious note. Even if they are unable to entirely control the contamination risk (and this will always be great with that number of people milling around) they need to provide far, far more detailed, clear and obvious information about all the foods they are offering. The final responsibility for avoiding a food to which they are allergic must always lie with the allergic person, but in order to shoulder that responsibility they must be given the information about the food that they need to make an ’informed’ decision.’

    • Michelle you’re right. It’s the ‘bandwaggon’ freefromers who really are confusing the issue. Uneducated people would be wondering why some visitors were digging in with gay abandon and others not. The grey line between intolerances and allergies and those who avoid certain foods for dietary and weight loss/health reasons is confusing for some. Especially when eating out, but that isn’t an excuse for companies and stand helpers to shirk their duties of care to those of us who could and ARE made seriously ill when mistakes are made.

      Quite often the reaction will happen outside the place where it happens and most of us are too embarasssed or too ill to go back and complain so many many times restaurants and shops are not told when they make someone ill. I’m guilty of that in the past. I know a place has given me the allergen I’ve asked to avoid but how can I prove it after the event? When I leave early or in a rush because I feel ill, my red swollen face could have been caused by anything once I’ve left the building without saying anything. Very tricky. Since my reactions are dose related small traces will creep up on with a delayed reaction.

      So it’s up to us to communicate sensibly the seriousness of the issue and educate people as we go. Only millions of people to educate. No problem. We can handle that.

  13. Ruth I am so sorry you had to go through that and glad you are better now.

    I find this subject regarding the Allergy Show interesting and how stalls made these costly and (could have been deadly) mistakes.

    As I suffer with allergies (not too severe) and intolerant to certain foods, this is scary as I have a dairy and nut intolerance.

    At my skincare stall, I made sure no food was eaten near the stall, even customers were told not to be near the stall eating in case a remnant of their food got into my skincare, some got upset but i explained why numerous times.

    In fact one of my balm testers I had to throw away due to a customers ignoring the spatula (wooden) and dipping their finger in, lucky it was near the end of the container but I couldn’t take the risk, as you well known my products are 8 Common Food Allergen Free along with being Vegan and so on.

    I think their needs to be a clear guide for people not to eat when walking around the exhibition and checking hygiene, as this is a concern, something needs to be looked at (within this regard), not i begrudge people trying food but when they could contaminate stalls products it is an annoyance that could be prevented.

    However as a proprietor, it was my duty and (i think every stalls duty) to ask every potential customer what allergies they have, had or suffer with before they even tried any of my skincare products just to make sure an incident didn’t occur.

    Gladly I did this everytime and any ingredients a customer wanted to know, I would explain in full for all products, which with one customer her son was allergic to Avocado (which is in my nominated balm), and she was thankful that I took such up most care.

    A complaint alot of customers new and old stated to me at the show was how clueless staff were at stalls, and not just in my field, that is worrying and maybe something can be reviewed on this.

    For myself I mainly drank water during the show and with the little breaks I did have during the show to eat food, I brought in food which was 8 Common Food Allergen Free and eaten away from my stall at all times.

    Hopefully for the next Allergy Free Show this can be readily monitored, and I appreciate the event on a whole, but you do wonder if companies understand the market they are going into as a whole.

    Hopefully next time i will get to meet you…

    Rich

    • Hi Richard, yes skincare is an area people do need to be more aware of in the move to create more healthy, natural skin products as many foods have very good beneficial effects on skin moisture and healing e.g. avodado, almonds, wheatgerm, oats, shea butter, walnut. I could go on, but are also major food allergens themselves. I’ve had numerous reactions to skin care products such as massage oil, facial treatments and am very very careful now what I will let someone put on my skin. I usually provide my own products though I am finding more and more lovely stuff, like your mabfab.

      I agree with your comment about companies understanding their market. It’s a dangerous game if you don’t as you could make your customers very ill or worse. I didn’t see you there (spent a long time with the parameds before they let me go home) so sorry I missed you. Did you enter the SkinCare awards?

  14. Dear Ruth,
    So sorry to hear of your reaction at the show. Sadly it’s not the first time. Unfortunately a family illness kept me away this year but a couple of years ago I was at the show actually speaking on ‘Managing anaphylaxis’ when a child started having an anaphylactic reaction and I was called over to help. It wasn’t a severe reaction and like you he didn’t need his adrenaline but it spoilt the day for him and his family.
    I’m really glad that Tom has seen your blog and is putting measures in place for Liverpool and next year as the show has so much potential and with the correct staff manning the stands and procedures put in place to prevent cross contamination it could be even better.

    • Hi Sue. I’m sure it’s not the first time, and how many have gone home and know they ate something they shouldn’t and just have a mild reaction? How many of them will report back to the show? There is a very very long way to go but it’s amazing to see the show growing. I am sure with Tom’s understanding and keeness to take all this on board we can make future shows more safe and fun for all. It’s the one place you SHOULD feel OK to try stuff but actually you needed to be even more on your guard than normal, when you probably wouldn’t try stuff anyway. Am quite back to my normal self now but I now have a cold sore coming. Predictable after recorvering from an allergic reaction. I nearly always get one. Zapping it ealy with L-Llysine.

  15. A good review from Kevin Gollop who really enjoyed the show and narrowly avoided getting glutened! http://www.glutenfreestudentcookbook.co.uk/

  16. Ruth – echoing the condolences on your encounter with allergens and your reaction. Yes, of all places – the Allergy Show. But reading through every comment and your post .. one thing stands out MISSING: The money/financial incentive/ element. This is WHY you have the problems. This is why exhibitors cut-corners/use untrained personnel/cross-offer allergy-prone product… all in the name of making sales.

    Those exhibitors who would never have a problem, are those who attend for the purpose of providing (1) Education, (2) Safe-alternatives, (3) Their own experience. The ONLY way a show of this type will ever become the safe-show you are asking for, will be to limit exhibitors to ONLY those, described in the three (3) categories above. All others will slip-up because they only have the financial-gain incentive to be there. And that does NOT include being knowledgeable about allergy or caring.

    I’ll have more to say about this on YOSAKIME. Quite a bit more, actually.

    Very glad you’re improving.

    • Thanks for the comment YOSAKIME. You are right, but there needs to be some element of profit for the show to remain viable. There need to be much stricter guidelines for show exhibitors. If someone had a worse reaction it would not bode well for the show. Hopefully organisers will sit up and take note. This is lives you are playing with!

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  1. […] awareness and suffered what could have been a very severe reaction. You can read the full story on her blog here  but, in essence, she tried a dairy free macaroni cheese at one stand, unaware that the company […]

  2. […] you read my blog you’ll know that I had a pretty bad time at The Allergy Show. I missed all the great talks which I think are one of the best things about the show. It’s […]

  3. […] and labelling, not least I am sure because slapdash efforts last summer resulted in one allergy blogger suffering an allergic reaction. This time, nut warnings and the like were clearly and carefully […]

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