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Headlines > Food Safety

FSA commissions review of allergen labels

By Graham Holter , 12-Sep-2011
Last updated on 13-Sep-2011 at 13:02 GMT

Research into the effectiveness and accuracy of allergen warnings on food will be commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) later this year.

The FSA outlined initial plans for the project in February and is now inviting tenders for the survey, with a deadline of October 17.

Researchers are expected to “carry out a survey of allergen advisory labelling to provide a better understanding of whether the labelling relates to the actual level of allergen present in processed foods”, the FSA said.

Cross contamination

It will also help the FSA gather information on the levels of allergens present as a result of cross-contamination.

“In addition, the survey will look at the different types of advisory labelling used on foods and will consider how different statements, such as ‘may contain nuts’ or ‘not suitable for someone with a nut allergy’, are used by consumers to assess the levels of risk.”

An FSA spokeswoman told FoodManufacture.co.uk that a panel of experts aimed to make a decision about the tender in December. “Once agreement has been reached, we think we’re looking to get the results around April or May 2013,” she added.

The results from the survey are expected to help inform decisions on allergen management thresholds.

In June the FSA published a study that revealed a lack of consumer understanding about allergen labelling.

Allergen warnings

The work, carried out by the University of Surrey, found that most respondents wrongly assumed allergen warnings were mandatory, rather than voluntary, and that foods with no allergen information were therefore risk-free.

Warnings such as “may contain nuts” were often ignored, the study found, because they appeared to be so prevalent and left limited options for shoppers.

European food manufacturers have been required to list certain allergens on product labels since November 2005, when EU directive 2003/89/EC was implemented.

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