By the time this column goes to print, we should have a list of derivative products adopted by the European Commission (EC) that are exempt from the requirements of allergen labelling Directive 2003/89/EC.
Due to the late submission of many applications, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is still considering some products, but it has already given opinions on many, from which it may be possible to discern the likelihood of exemption. Finalisation of the list during February leaves industry less than nine months to make label alterations to comply with the legislation by November 25, 2005.
In the meantime, the picture emerging is interesting. Among the foodstuffs that are likely to be exempt are distillates from cereals and nuts, and highly refined oils from mustard seed, celery leaf and seed and soybeans. However, it is less likely that refined oils from peanuts will be exempt because of insufficient data to predict the allergic reaction to peanut oil in sensitive consumers.
Interestingly, two EFSA opinions have been issued so far covering the clarifying agent isinglass, used in brewing and in wine production.
On the one hand, the EFSA concluded that isinglass is unlikely to cause a severe allergic reaction through its use in brewing, and although further studies are requested, it is expected to be exempt from labelling. On the other, the EFSA concluded that the data submitted for the use in wine was insufficient to predict the allergenic potential.
Could this mean beer will not have to be labelled 'contains fish' but wine will? Further opinions have been requested for the use of isinglass in cider and wine production. It is an interesting scenario!
What is clear from this exercise is that more than one submission has been made for many common ingredients and each opinion has been issued, so far, based on the content of the individual submission. Therefore there will be an element of 'tying together' all of the opinions before the EC can finally settle on one definitive exemption list.
Jean Feord Business Manager
Leatherhead Food International.