THE "Owen's Law" petition calling for clearer allergy labelling on restaurant menus is set to be debated at Westminster today.

The petition amassed nearly 13,000 signatures and will see a debate addressing the tragic circumstances which saw it created.

Owen Carey, from Crowborough, East Sussex, was celebrating his 18th birthday with a meal when he died.

Carey had a severe allergy to dairy, and when he was assured the chicken burger he ordered from Byron Burgers was safe, he ate the meal that saw him go into anaphylactic shock.

The burger contained buttermilk, which was not specified on the restaurant menu, and despite the efforts of paramedics, Owen passed away.

His family started the petition in a bid to ensure that tragedy like this can be avoided in the future.

The law would make it a legal requirement for menus to have a list of allergens on the face of the menu, and also for servers to discuss allergens with customers for extra security.

It would also see the creation of a national register for anaphylaxis deaths.

Byron Burgers improved all its allergen procedures after the tragedy.

Why does this law matter?

The death of Owen Carey is not an isolated case – in the UK, around 10 people die annually due to anaphylactic shock.

Two million people in the UK have a food allergy, and while severity levels vary, it is always a danger for them to eat out as they could end up sick or hospitalised.

Common ingredients such as nuts and dairy products, wheat, eggs and even fruits are common allergies.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Hospitality businesses take allergen management extremely seriously and do everything within their power to be transparent with customers about ingredients.

“Our ultimate aim is to ensure everyone can enjoy eating out, with the confidence that their allergies are recognised and catered for.

“UKHospitality and its members continue to work collaboratively across the supply chain and with wider stakeholders on our already robust system of food safety – including enhanced allergen guidance in our recently updated industry-leading Catering Guide.”

Restaurants can be liable for allergic reactions, with those backing the law saying it would also help businesses by reducing the risk on their side too.

What's next?

The upcoming parliamentary debate will not commit the UK Government to anything, but will offer an insight on its stance towards the calls made by the petition.

To come into force, the petition would have to be converted into a bill after debate and pass through both the House of Commons and House of Lords before it gains royal assent and becomes law.

One recent development in this policy area was the passing of Natasha’s Law, requiring pre-packaged foods to display a full list of ingredients, after 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died due to an allergic reaction to a packaged baguette from a Pret a Manger store at Heathrow.

How does this affect Scotland?

Should the bill pass, it would likely come into effect for the entire UK, as consumer protection is a reserved power in Westminster.

Owen’s family hope that just a simple change in labelling and staff training will prevent any needless deaths of people with food allergies occurring in the future.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Businesses are required by law to provide accurate, clear information on food allergens for foods they sell. Food Standards Scotland keep this under regular review.”