A focus on Food Allergies at Omagh & District Ladies’ Probus Meeting


Dr Ian Leitch with Vice President, Zoe Reid

“Would you gamble your life on a takeaway meal?” was the dramatic and thought provoking title of an audiovisual presentation shown to Omagh Ladies Probus members at the March meeting of the club.

Vice President Zoe Reid extended a warm welcome to guest speaker Dr. Ian Leitch whose interest in food allergens and the problems encountered by sufferers when purchasing food was sparked off at a Public Health conference in Canada many years ago and has led to many years of research on his behalf.

Dr. Leitch explained that for many allergy sufferers purchasing and eating prepared food without full knowledge of the ingredients used was indeed a gamble. Hidden allergens in seemingly suitable dishes had the potential to trigger a life threatening reaction and cases of deaths resulting from this have been documented.

In 2006, a N. I. Research Project highlighted this problem when samples of food purchased for peanut allergy sufferers showed that one in five of the catering premises visited provided meals which could possibly have triggered a fatal reaction!

Further research on the need for allergen controls being put in place led to awareness training programmes for Environmental Health Officers being set up.

Members were reassured to hear that much work has been done since then and more stringent safeguards are now in place. From December 2014 all food businesses have been required to provide allergy information on food sold unpackaged.

With restaurants needing to be able to supply up front information on allergens on menus etc. eating out is less of a gamble for many susceptible people.

In his very comprehensive talk, Dr. Leitch referred to the better known allergies, their symptoms and treatment options including the use of an EpiPen. With over 170 known food allergens and the number of allergen sufferers rising, it was encouraging to hear of the work done within the food industry to label ingredients clearly.

Club member Audrey Hodge thanked Dr. Leitch for being generous with his time and for his interesting and informative talk.

Omagh and District Ladies’ Probus Members will take part in a Spring Outing to Florence Court National Trust Property on Thursday 5th April.