Following the tragic death of a 15-year-old food allergy sufferer last summer, a group of young women based in the North East of England, are using their own time and money to create a dietary mobile app to prevent unnecessary allergy related deaths.
Newcastle, United Kingdom, March 2019 – Last year, a major high street food chain came under fire following the much-publicised deaths of two of its patrons. One customer, allergic to sesame, died after eating an artisan baguette that failed to display allergen information relating to the ingredient on its packaging. Equally, the second customer died after eating a flatbread that was supposed to be dairy-free.
EU regulations require food companies to warn customers of allergen risks, either displayed on signs, packaging or offered orally upon request. However, the high street chain’s ‘made to sell’ items, prepared at their in-store kitchens are exempt from displaying allergen ingredients in this manner. While the government has recently initiated a consultation in challenge to this, currently, manufacturers are advised to provide information on a sticker, in refrigerators or in a counter. However, the company in question simply advised customers to ask for allergen information themselves, at point of purchase.
The group of young women came together with research showing a worrying trend in the current food labelling process, not just in high street food chains, but throughout the food manufacturing and distribution industries. To tackle this, the young women set up My Allergy ID, with the aim of creating a digital community of food allergy sufferers and companies within the food industry, to tackle irresponsible labelling via the My Allergy ID app. To do this, the company have partnered with Newcastle-based software development company, OnTrac Ltd, who specialise in mobile app development.
My Allergy ID have approached a number of food manufacturers, including North-East food brand, Greggs, who have been enormously helpful in providing My Allergy ID with their product allergen information, to help get the app off the ground. Using the information provided by the nationwide brand, My Allergy ID sat down with the OnTrac team to discuss the necessary requirements, using OnTrac’s no-code app development product, Nutshell Apps to create a prototype during the initial scoping meetings.
Martyn Cuthbert, Managing Director at OnTrac, said:
“We were blown away by our first meeting with My Allergy ID. The business acumen displayed by these young women was far beyond our expectations of 17-year-olds, and their vision for what they want to achieve from the app is genuinely inspired.”
“OnTrac are honoured to be working alongside these young business women. We are huge advocates of supporting and encouraging women into tech, so the enthusiasm and ingenuity displayed by the girls has been outstanding.”
Cara Blight, leading the My Allergy ID team, said:
“It is estimated that around two million people in the UK are living with a diagnosed food allergy and not enough is being done to ensure that tragedies, such as those that occurred last summer, do not happen again.”
“The onus is very much on the allergy sufferer to ensure they don’t have an allergic reaction, which needs to change. Having to extensively research restaurants, chains and labels, before doing something as basic as eating, is debilitating and isolates people from enjoying something so many of us don’t’ even think about. No one should go out for a sandwich and need to ask, ‘will I die?’ – My Allergy ID aim to change that mindset.”
Targeting food manufacturers, distributors and allergy sufferers alike, My Allergy ID aim to create a community of users that can support one another in navigating food labels and restaurant menus, using existing processes and technology – such as barcodes – in a smarter way, to create a world where food allergy sufferers no longer have to worry about what they’re eating.
This International Women’s Day, the My Allergy ID team will be setting up a stall at local venue, Tyne Bank Brewery as part of the third Sister Shack event, which celebrates female entrepreneurship across the North East.
The My Allergy ID app is currently in production and will be available shortly. There is a working prototype available for demo purposes.