Don’t eat ‘dairy-free’ at Pizza Express if you have a milk allergy

29 June 2012

cowWhen you see something on a menu badged as ‘dairy-free’, you expect that item to be, well, free of dairy, don’t you? You don’t expect it to carry the risk of cross contamination with milk products that could, if you have a severe allergy, kill you.

A recent Pizza Express muncher noticed the new Raspberry Sorbet on the updated children’s menu. As her son suffered from a dangerous milk allergy, as well as a soya allergy, she asked to check the ingredients. The tub of sorbet clearly stated that it “may contain milk” as the factory was used to make milk-containing products.

Confused, she looked for the warning on the menu- in a footnote, on the back in really small writing- but there was nothing. So she asked the manager, who told her that it was OK, it didn’t contain milk, it might just have some milk  in it from the factory. Which is not desperately OK if ingesting milk might kill you.

Pizza Express said that “the machinery is given a thorough cleaning removing all previous ingredients- this is very robust and we are happy to state it is dairy-free”. This seems to contradict the advice of AllergyUK whose response was that "if products are made in a factory where other products are also produced the labelling does have to state this because of the risk of cross contamination.  Although the machinery used is cleaned before a new production there is always that risk there may be a trace of the allergen left in the system which could cause a risk."

EU law states that all ingredients, including those used in production, where specific allergens are involved (which include milk) must be shown clearly on the packaging. While this information was provided on the tub of sorbet in the fridge, anyone who did not personally examine that tub may be misled into thinking the sorbet was dairy-free. Because the menu said it was.

While Pizza Express may or may not be in breach of EU rules, they have decided not to make the “may contain” information available on their menu. Choosing not to inform customers of the potential presence of a life-threatening allergen just so you can sell more sorbet seems a bit harsh.

Pizza Express, who do normally have good allergy information available in restaurants on request, have been asked to comment, but so far only maintain their employees would risk their own life and eat the sorbet.


  • chris
    Given this item was likely listed in the menu next to ice cream and Pizza express handles fresh milk for drinks and coffee, the chances of cross contamination in the restaurant itself are probably hundreds of times more likely than from the factory. I'm not entirely sure it's common practice to list milk as being at risk of cross contamination, lactose intolerance is fairly common but dangerous milk allergies are pretty rare and once you start listing the more uncommon allergens, you risk having a full page of small text that is hard to scan for important information.
  • Mustapha S.
    If something like that would kill you, I'd be checking the fucking pot anyway, regardless of what some minimum waged high school drop out says whilst grudgingly serving you.
  • oliverreed
    Just put the kid in a bubble or something, why eat out if you can't trust any ingredients?
  • Paul C.
    Funny how 'intolerance this', 'allergy that' has sprung up in the last twenty years. If your child has a life threatening allergy to food, probably not a good idea to let an absolute stranger cook their dinner, eh? Pizza Express are not to blame.
  • Lemax
    @Paul Coia It hasn't really sprung up in the last twenty years, it's just become fashionable topic.
  • Leigh
    My son has dairy, egg and seafood allergies. However we were delighted when we discovered that he was able to eat pizzas at Pizza Express if served without the cheese toppings. It is so frustrating to eat out when restaurants or pubs refuse to serve food we know he is able to eat because they do not want to run the risk of legal retaliation from customers. Provided food is correctly labelled it is the customer's responsibility to assess the risk of an allergic reaction and choose food accordingly. If my son had a life threatening dairy allergy I wouldn't go anywhere near a pizza restaurant! Why not try chinese?
  • Dick
    You cannot break from lower middle class to middle middle class unless you have a child with a food alergy. This is why some people make up alergies for their children. If it is an everyday foodstuff like wheat or dairy (even better if wheat and dairy), then you can sometimes jump all the way to upper middle class in one go.
  • jt
    You can't jump to lower middle class if you can't spell allergy.

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