Lactose is a type of sugar found in mammal’s milk and dairy products. It is a disaccharide that is made up of galactose and glucose, it is the main energy carrier in the milk. Industrially manufactured lactose, due to its characteristics and physiology, is used in lots of food products and the pharmaceutical industry. Some people cannot digest lactose and can suffer a number of symptoms if consumed by mistake. Should this be the case, and you suffered harm because you ingested something that contained lactose, you may be entitled to seek compensation by filing a personal injury claim against a responsible party.
Although it is not a legal requirement for the food industry to label products that contain lactose, if a product is incorrectly labelled as being lactose-free and consumed by someone who is lactose intolerant, or, if after a consumer requests lactose-free food in a café but is still served lactose-containing food which results in them becoming unwell, they may have grounds to make a personal injury claim against the party responsible
Legal Helpline has a team of experienced personal injury solicitors who have successfully dealt with food intolerant and food allergy claims over the years and can help you with yours. Just call us on 0161 696 9685 and if you have a valid claim, we will do our best to help you to get the compensation you deserve.
Jump To A Section:
- A Guide To Making A Lactose Intolerance Compensation Claim
- What Is Lactose Intolerance?
- Is Lactose Intolerance An Allergy?
- Foods Containing Lactose
- Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance
- Causes of Being Lactose Intolerant
- Lactose Intolerance Claims Against A Restaurant Or Coffee Shop
- Rules On Labelling Products Which May Contain Lactose
- Evidence To Support A Claim
- Lactose Intolerance Illness Compensation Calculator
- Special Damages Which May Be Claimed In The Event Of Costs Or Losses
- How To Make A Lactose Intolerance Illness Claim
- No Win No Fee Lactose Intolerant Illness Compensation
- Speak To Legal Helpline
- Supporting Information
Personal injury claims can often be complex and having the right information provided by legal professionals is essential for your claim to be successful. Legal Helpline has produced this guide to filing a personal injury claim against a responsible party and includes background information about lactose intolerance.
We provide information on what could constitute grounds to file a personal injury claim together with some rules regarding product labelling, what type of evidence you need to prove your claim, how much compensation you could receive, and how to start your claim. We also look at using a No Win No Fee personal injury solicitor could be beneficial.
Lactose intolerance is an inability to digest lactose due to the lack of a substance called lactase which is needed to break lactose down. Lactose intolerance can be a temporary or permanent health complaint depending on the cause. In most cases when the condition develops in adulthood, it is typically inherited and usually remains a permanent health complaint. However, in children it may develop due to an infection in the digestive system and often only lasts a few weeks.
Is lactose intolerance an allergy? People may think that lactose intolerance is an allergy and that the reaction to lactose is an allergic one, but this is not the case. Allergies to food are when your immune system reacts to a certain ingredient or type of food. An allergy will cause symptoms such as rashes, itching and wheezing and can be life-threatening if medical treatment is not sought immediately. With an allergy, even just a small particle of the allergen can be enough to trigger an allergic reaction. With lactose intolerance, small amounts of lactose can often still be consumed without suffering too many problems, although this can vary from person to person.
Lactose Intolerance V’s Dairy And Milk Allergies:
- Milk and dairy allergies – According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), around 2.5% of infants will develop an allergy to milk, usually in their first year of life. A milk allergy occurs when a person’s immune system reacts negatively to the protein in the milk. A dairy allergy also involves the immune system where the body reacts to the proteins present in dairy food and drink products. The allergic reaction may range from being quite mild such as a rash or hives, to more serious and potentially life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis
- Lactose Intolerance – a food intolerance such as lactose intolerance, does not have anything to do with the immune system but instead is a reaction that takes place in the digestive system. Lactose intolerance can result in discomfort and pain due to excess gas and bloating, but it is not life-threatening
Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for lactose intolerance, however, most people affected are able to limit or control their symptoms. For the majority of sufferers, changing their diet so that they exclude food and drink containing lactose opting instead for lactose-free food and drink, is enough to limit or control lactose intolerance symptoms. Depending on the person and the extent of their intolerance, would determine how thorough they need to be with the exclusion of lactose-containing products.
Some people can tolerate small amounts of lactose, whereas others find even the smallest amount can set off their symptoms. When excluding certain foods, however, care needs to be taken to replace the nutrients that would be missing from these foods such as calcium, to reduce the likelihood of a deficiency occurring.
Food and drink that contain lactose include:
- Milk – milk from cows, goats or sheep will all contain lactose. Depending on how severe your intolerance to lactose is, you may need to change the amount of milk you consume or the method by which it is consumed
- It may be fine for you to have a little milk in your coffee or tea, but not with your cereal
- You may still be able to have some milk containing products such as chocolate in small quantities
- Drinking milk with a meal rather than on its own may help with digesting it
- Dairy Products – any products made using milk such as cheese, butter, ice-cream and yoghurt contain lactose. Some of these products, however, may only have low amounts and therefore could be consumed in small amounts
Other food products may also contain lactose and include:
- Mayonnaise, salad cream and other salad dressings
- Boiled sweets
- Some bread and other baked products
- Some packet mixes such as pancake mixes
- Some breakfast cereals
- Packets of instant soups and instant potatoes
- Processed meats
It may be worth carefully experimenting to establish which, if any, foods containing lactose you can tolerate and in what quantities as you may not have to cut them out completely.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance will vary from minor to severe depending on the individual involved. Most symptoms develop within a few hours after consuming lactose-containing food or drink and usually consist of:
- Passing wind
- Stomach rumbling
- Cramps and pain in the stomach
- Stomach bloating
- Feeling nauseous
These symptoms also resemble symptoms of other conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or having an intolerance to milk protein (which is still different to a milk allergy). As such, it is important to seek a medical diagnosis first by having a lactose intolerance test before removing dairy and milk products from your diet.
The body produces an enzyme called lactase which breaks down lactose into two easily absorbed sugars called galactose and glucose. But with someone who is lactose intolerant, their body does not produce sufficient amounts of lactase which causes lactose to remain in the digestive system where it ferments in the intestine. This in turn leads to digestive gases being produced leading to the symptoms described above.
Lactose intolerance may be temporary or permanent depending on the reason why the body isn’t producing enough of the lactase enzyme. Often people who become lactose intolerant when an adult, do so due to it being an inherited condition and therefore it remains permanent. But children may develop an intolerance to lactose due to an infection of the digestive system. Once the infection is treated, it will then go back to producing normal levels of lactase after a few weeks.
Although restaurants, coffee shops and other food outlets and companies that produce and package foods, are not legally required to make it known if a product contains lactose, there are still some circumstances in which they may be to blame for someone suffering lactose intolerance symptoms due to negligence. For example, if food packaging or a menu is incorrectly labelled stating that it doesn’t contain lactose or any lactose-containing products when in fact it does, and someone who is lactose intolerant consumes the food, the outlet or restaurant where the food was purchased could possibly be found liable for any suffering the consumer experiences.
Similarly, if a customer in a restaurant specifically asks if a particular food contains lactose, or requests lactose-free food, and they are still served food that contains lactose, then the restaurant may be found responsible for any illness the customer experiences due to their negligence.
If you have suffered lactose intolerance symptoms after consuming food or drink that you were led to believe was free of lactose or lactose-containing ingredients, contact us at Legal Helpline and we can determine whether or not you have a valid reason to make a personal injury claim against the responsible party.
When it comes to potential food allergens, there are rules and regulations in force that food producers and sellers are legally required to abide by. On pre-packed foods, the following must be included on the packaging:
- The food name
- The ingredients including any allergens. Allergens need to be highlighted in some way such as being written in bold so that they stand out
- A quantitative ingredient declaration where required
- The volume or weight of the food, its net quantity
- The ‘use by’, or ‘best before’ date
- The food business operator’s name and address (this is who supplies the food information)
- The alcoholic volume, or strength, written as a percentage for drinks that contain more than 1.2%
Information on the food labels must be difficult to remove, and the following must all be visible at once and therefore on one side of the packaging:
- Name of the food
- The food’s net quantity
- The volume of alcohol
If the food contains any allergens, these should be clearly visible to the consumer. Not all allergens are required to be shown, but there are 14 allergens that must legally be shown and these are:
- Cereals that contain gluten such as wheat (including koras and spelt wheat), rye barley and oats
- Crustaceans which include prawns, lobster, crayfish and crabs
- Milk (lactose inclusive)
- Any nuts such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachio nuts, pecan nuts, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and Queensland nuts for example
- Celery or celeriac
- Sesame seeds
- Sulphur dioxide and sulphites – if they happen to be more than 10 milligrams per kilogram or 10 milligrams per litre in the end product
- Molluscs such as mussels, oysters, squid and snails
- Lupin, lupin seeds, and lupin flour
All food sellers have a duty of care to make sure their products are safe for consumption and this includes ensuring that food is labelled correctly to reduce the likelihood of someone suffering an allergic reaction. Legally they have to include the 14 allergens listed above. Information about this can be found here.
If a seller such as a restaurant or café, fail in their duty of care and someone suffers an allergic reaction as a result, they could possibly be liable to pay compensation should a claim be made against them.
In order for a personal injury claim to be successful, you must be able to provide evidence that proves the defendant is responsible for the harm you were caused through their negligence. In the instance of suffering a reaction to lactose that wasn’t your fault, you should consider the following:
- Being able to prove that you ate at the restaurant or bought food at another outlet, such as providing a receipt, remembering the restaurant manager’s or waiter/waitresses name for example
- Taking details of any witnesses who saw what happened
- Make sure to report what has happened by speaking to the food outlets manager and also following it up with an email, and insist it is entered into their accident book
- Obtain the details of the food outlet’s liability insurance
- Possibly involve the environmental agency depending on the circumstances
- When you’ve eaten in a restaurant, if the menu was written incorrectly leading you to believe you were consuming food that was free from lactose, keep a copy as this is a vital piece of evidence that shows their mistake
- Provide any medical evidence that shows you had suffered due to a reaction to lactose consumed at a food outlet or supplier
When making a compensation claim, you can use our personal injury claims compensation table to estimate what you may be awarded should your claim be a success. However, at this stage, due to the different variables that make up the final settlement amount, we can only show the payment brackets for the injury itself according to those set out in the Judicial College Guidelines. These include:
|Type Of Injury||Compensation Amount||Comments|
|Minor Illness||Up To £3,710||Minor lactose intolerance symptoms causing mild discomfort and that clear up within a few hours|
|Moderate Illness||£3,710 - £8,950||Pain and discomfort preventing the victim from carrying out normal daily tasks, but symptoms clear up within around 24 hours|
|Moderate to Severe Illness||£8,950 - £18,020||Serious pain and discomfort that last longer than 24 hours and prevent the victim from carrying out normal daily routine|
|Severe Illness||£18,020 - £49,270||Acute pain and suffering requiring the victim to require hospital treatment|
|Minor Injury||Up to £650||Full recovery within 7 days|
|Minor Injury||£650 - £1,290||Full recovery within 28 days|
|Minor Injury||£1,290 - £2,300||Full recovery within 3 months|
Any personal injury claim must be started within the personal injury claims time limit. In most circumstances, this is 3 years from the date of injury, but this can vary depending on the circumstances involved. If a personal injury claim is being made for a child injury, and is not made before they turn 18 by a parent or guardian on their behalf, they have 3 years from their 18th birthday to start a claim.
As briefly mentioned above, there are a number of damages when added together make up the final settlement amount of compensation when a case is successful. These include:
- General Damages – these account for the injury itself and the amount awarded will be dependent on the severity of the injury, its effects, recovery time and future prospect
- Medical Costs – if you have incurred medical costs due to your injury, you can include these in the claim. These may include prescription fees or private healthcare for example
- Travel costs – if you have incurred travel costs due to your injury, you can include these in the claim.
- Loss of Income – any loss of income or future loss of income as a result of your injury can be included
- Care Claim – if you have had to pay for extra care around the home, these costs can be included in the claim
If you intend filing a personal injury claim, we strongly advise speaking with an experienced legal time such as Legal Helpline. If you contact us we will offer you a free consultancy session where you can discuss the nature of your claim with an expert personal injury lawyer who will be able to determine whether you have a legitimate reason to claim for compensation. During this session, you can ask as many questions as you need to regarding the process of making a claim and what you should do next
If you choose to have us as your legal representative to make your claim on your behalf, we will then set to work immediately in order to build a strong case to take to court if necessary.
Many people think having a legal team to conduct their case for them is something they simply cannot afford. However, with a No Win No Fee solicitor, this needn’t be the case. A No Win No Fee solicitor will not ask for any payments before or during the claiming process, instead, they take a small percentage of the awarded amount at the end if the claim is successful known as a ‘success fee’. If the claim is unsuccessful, they do not charge for any of their fees at all.
If you would like to discuss the circumstances surrounding your injury in more detail or would like to discuss using our no win no fee service to conduct your claim on your behalf, contact us on 0161 696 9685 and we will endeavour to be of assistance.
Nut allergy claims – This guide here has lots of information on personal injury claims if you have suffered an allergic reaction to nuts.
Peanut allergy reaction claims – This guide contains specific information on peanut allergy claims.
If you are making a claim for a loved one that has sadly died through negligence, this information here may be useful
Allergen labelling for food manufacturers – Information from the Food Standard Agency’s website on how manufacturers should label allergens for pre-packaged food.
Lactose intolerance diagnosis – For information on how a lactose intolerance diagnosis is made, see the NHS website here
Article by KH