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