Allergens fiasco?

Related tags Label Allergen Asthma

Allergens fiasco?
As we approach November 25, the final compliance date for allergen labelling (with exceptions) according to Directive 2003/89, further confusion is...

As we approach November 25, the final compliance date for allergen labelling (with exceptions) according to Directive 2003/89, further confusion is apparent. The delayed publication of the list for provisional labelling exemption from November 2004, to March 2005, gave companies a reduced deadline by which to ensure their labels were in accordance with this reprieve of certain refined products.

DG Sanco has advised that member states may enforce the compliance deadline of November 25 with an element of relaxation until March 21 2006 (one year after the publication of the exemption list). The UK appears to have taken this approach, but not all member states are guaranteed to do the same. This is further confounded by an additional substance to the list in October: fish gelatine as a carrier for carotenoids. Are we to expect that further ingredients reviewed under the original assessment will gradually be added to the provisional list?

While a positive development that not all derivatives of allergens need be labelled, it is, perhaps, not what you want to hear when you have already overhauled your labels! It does appear that this is an area that we have made unnecessarily complicated.

In Australia, there is no allergen labelling exemption list at this time, but in the US, there is a requirement only to label allergen derivatives that contain protein from the named allergen. Those containing no protein, from a list of highly refined oils or subject to an application for exemption on the basis that the protein present is non-allergenic (only one application to date), are exempt.

While the Australian system may appear inflexible, it is straightforward. However the US system could be a sensible solution, relying on effective testing regimes which industry is already adopting in Europe for due diligence. It would certainly reduce the reliance on the European Food Safety Authority assessing countless more dossiers slowing the trickle of important information which might have prevented expensive label or re-formulation work.

''Jean FeordBusiness manager for legislation,Leatherhead Food Internationalhttp://www.leatherheadfood.com​''