Lack of Allergen Warning Labels on Processed Foods Poses Higher Health Risk

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Researchers in Australia have called for more stringent food allergen labelling regulations after recent data revealed that the lack of warning labels poses a bigger risk for consumers than cross-contamination during food processing.  This was according to the study, “Are Packaging Errors The Real Cause For Food Recalls And Allergic Reactions in Australia?” published in Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. 

The study, based on food recall data from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) from 2009 to 2018, showed undeclared allergens took up 266 of 675 food recalls (39%), far more than factors such as microbial contamination (26%) or foreign matter contamination (16%).  Further scrutiny of all undeclared allergen data from 2015 to 2018 revealed that some 56% (51 cases) of these were due to packaging errors e.g. foods either packed into incorrect packaging or was incorrectly labelled and just 10% (nine cases) due to cross contamination.

The researchers call comes at a time when FSANZ is doubling down on efforts to tighten regulations surrounding mandatory allergen labelling regulations, dubbed the Plain English Allergen Labelling (PEAL) proposal, a project started as far back as 2010.  There are 11 known food and ingredients that can cause severe allergic and other adverse reactions in some people and therefore need to be included in the warning labels.  These are gluten, crustacean, eggs, fish, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts (except coconuts), sesame seeds, soybean, added sulphites (10mg/kg or more), and lupin. 

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