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Mum backs plan for better food labels after son almost dies

Belinda West's son Ruaridh was just minutes from death following an anaphylactic shock.

The mother of a young boy who almost died after going into anaphylactic shock has backed plans to improve food labelling in Scotland.

Belinda West's five-year-old son Ruaridh is highly allergic to milk, eggs and nuts.

Contact with those items could be potentially fatal for the little boy.

"One of the first times he had an anaphylactic shock, we were about two minutes from losing him altogether," Belinda says.

"And that was terrifying."

The plans follow the tragic death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse in 2016, who died following an allergic reaction to sesame seeds in a Pret a Manger baguette.

Meeting in Aberdeen on Wednesday, Food Standards Scotland agreed to follow their counterparts south of the border and recommend increased information on all pre-packaged foods for direct sale.

Foods such as sandwiches and salads would have the 14 major allergens highlighted.

'There's a lot of work to be done but we've got to get it right because we've got to protect the consumer.'
Ross Finnie, Food Standards Scotland

"We're going to make clear in our recommendation that this must not be used as an excuse to kick it into the long grass. That would be a real disaster," explains Ross Finnie from Food Standards Scotland.

"Ministers have to make the decision, we certainly wish to be engaged in the further work.

"There's a lot of work to be done but we've got to get it right because we've got to protect the consumer."

Scottish retailers say they take allergen management very seriously and will consider the new proposals with work already taking place on the issue.

The national charity Allergy UK say the move towards full ingredient labelling is welcome and will improve the lives of many sufferers.

However some small businesses say the proposals are a step too far, adding they don't have the resources that larger manufacturers do.

"The bigger players, your Tescos, your Sainsburys, your Greggs, all these ones, they're massive chains," explains Roy Duncan from Dejavu Sandwich Bar in Aberdeen.

"They've got all the finances and the departments to get all these things done, to them it's just adding more information onto a cardboard packet and getting mass produced and printed.

"For us smaller ones up and down the country, it's a lot of work and effort. We don't have the resources and the finances to get these things done."

But for Belinda, improvements can't come soon enough for her son.

"I don't think people realise just how serious an allergy can be. I've often had people come up to me and go 'oh, a milk allergy, does that mean he gets an upset stomach?'

"No, it could kill him."

Scottish ministers will now examine the recommendations.

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