It’s a crisp fall morning and the office is on the chilly side, so you decide on coffee (or tea, or hot cocoa) from the office vending machine. You walk up to the machine, make your selection, press the button, and out pops your steaming hot drink. What could be simpler?
Not so fast. If you suffer from a food allergy, you may want to consider the findings of an investigation recently concluded in Wales, UK.
The trading standards service of Torfaen County Borough Council released the results of its investigation which ran from April to September of 2020. The service visited 10 businesses that sell hot drinks from vending machines during that time to assess possible risks posed to consumers with food allergies.
Half of the businesses provided no allergen warnings as mandated by regulations. Of the businesses that did provide such allergen information, investigators found that it was either incorrect, inadequate or difficult to access and, in the case of information that was provided verbally, staff could not confidently confirm the correct allergen status of the products.
The council sent samples from all 10 businesses to a laboratory for analysis. Two samples that were not supposed to contain milk were found to contain traces of the allergen in sufficient quantity to trigger a reaction in people with milk allergy.
Said Lynne Regent, CEO of Anaphylaxis Campaign:
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. 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.
While the laws governing allergen warnings in the UK differ from those in the US where individual states are responsible for similar regulations, one thing is clear: vending machines that serve unpackaged foods and beverages pose a significant risk to people with food allergies. This may include machines common in offices and waiting rooms that dispense hot drinks to employees, consumers, and patients.
Do you have a milk, soy, tree nut or other food allergy? Would you drink coffee from a hot beverage vending machine? Please comment and let us know.