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Food Allergen Labelling Meeting Compliance and Consumer Expectations 

21/08/2023by admin0Read: 4 minutes

Allergen Labelling

Some foods and components have the potential to cause allergic reactions like anaphylaxis, immunological reactions, like those seen in Coeliac disease, and other negative health consequences, such as asthma among allergic individuals.

The process of labelling some goods known to contain common allergens is now governed by new plain English allergen labelling standards introduced in February 2021. Food allergy information will now be more easily visible and understandable on food labels due to these improvements.

Furthermore, food businesses have a three-year transition period to update their labels to comply with the new rules. By February 2024, one may anticipate seeing all the adjustments fall in place.

Food Ingredients should be declared on Labels

Food Ingredients should be declared on Labels

When present, the foods and ingredients on the following list must be specified in the ingredient list using their precise names (as given in the Table below) and bolded language. For instance, milk-based cheese or milk powder. The new rules also demand that specific tree nuts, molluscs, and grains be disclosed separately with the names as shown in the table.

Table

wheat soy, soya, soybean pistachio
fish sesame pine nut
crustacean almond walnut
mollusc Brazil nut barley
egg cashew oats
milk hazelnut rye
lupin macadamia sulphites
peanut pecan

Barley, oats, and rye containing gluten should be declared.

If they include gluten, rye, barley, and oats must be disclosed. When sulphites are introduced in quantities of 10 milligrams or more per kilogram of food, they should be declared.

To make it easier for readers to immediately identify any allergies present, a highlighted distinct allergy summary statement beginning with the term “contains” must be included close to the ingredient list. For example, ‘Contains milk‘.

A gluten-containing grain, such as wheat, barley, oats, or rye, as well as hybrids of these cereals like triticale, should be listed on the label with the word “gluten” in the summary statement.

The information should be displayed with the product or can be acquired from the provider if the food is not in packaging or does not require a label. For instance, by inquiring about allergies in meals cooked and sold at a takeout counter.

Product Exemptions

Certain foods are manufactured in a way that people with allergies can safely consume it. Thus, these foods do not require allergen labelling and can be exempted from it.

Product Exemptions from Allergen Labelling 

For specific goods and substances originating from allergenic sources, the Food Standards Code provides exemptions from the requirement of allergen labelling.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has determined that the following goods and ingredients are safe for people with food allergies because they have been treated to be acceptable for those who are allergic to wheat, soy, or dairy:

  • Wheat starch-based glucose syrups are free from mentioning wheat.
  • Completely refined soybean oil is not subject to soy labelling.
  • Tocopherols and phytosterols, which in spite of being soy derivatives are excluded from the soy declaration.
  • Alcohol made from distilled wheat or whey is exempt from declaring wheat or milk.

To qualify for an exemption from the obligation to label wheat, glucose syrups should have no more than 20 mg/kg of detectable gluten.

Bee Products

Bee pollen, propolis, or royal jelly-based food products should have warning or cautionary statements on food labels to let consumers know about their presence.

Warning and Advisory statements 

Warning Statements

a) Advisory statements

Certain goods or components that pose a health risk to some customers must be labelled with advisory statements.

The following foods or ingredients come under this category:

1) Aspartame:

Foods containing the potent sweetener aspartame are required to have phenylalanine warning warnings since this amino acid can cause phenylketonuria in individuals. For those unaware, phenylketonuria is a rare genetic disorder.

2) Guarana or its Extracts:

Foods containing guarana, a herbal source of caffeine, or guarana extracts should be labelled to state that they contain caffeine.

3) Plant Sterols:

Foods with added plant sterols, which may lessen cholesterol absorption should include statements on the labels stating:

  • The product should be eaten in conjunction with a balanced diet.
  • Young children under the age of five and women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid
  • When taken in excess of three grams per day, plant sterols do not offer extra advantages.
4) Caffeine:

Kola drinks with additional caffeine should have labels stating the same.

b) Warning Statements

A food must have a warning statement when people may be unaware of a severe health risk posed by a food or an ingredient.

For example, foods containing royal jelly from bees should include a warning label that reads: ‘This product contains royal jelly, which has been linked to severe allergic responses and, in rare instances, deaths, especially in those with asthma and allergies.’

‘May contain’ Statements'May contain' Statements

In an effort to address unintentional allergen cross-contamination, food labels often include “may contain” or “may be present” statements. These statements serve as a precautionary measure, alerting consumers to the possibility of allergens being present due to shared manufacturing or processing facilities. This practice, commonly referred to as Precautionary Allergen Labelling (PAL), aims to provide an extra layer of transparency to individuals with allergies.

These are voluntary statements shared by food suppliers and are not regulated by Food Standards Code. Food suppliers opt to include them as part of their commitment to consumer safety.

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