'May contain' allergy warning labels should be replaced by 'not suitable for' labels, which are less ambiguous, Sainsbury has argued.
Speaking at Food Manufacture's allergens conference last month, Sainsbury's chemistry manager John Figgins said: "We are really concerned about some of the warnings we see on packs that seem to require consumers to conduct their own risk assessment. We don't want customers to be in any doubt. By using the phrase 'not suitable for', we are giving the clearest message to our customers that we have conducted a risk assessment and are convinced that the product is not suitable for allergy sufferers."
Because it was not always possible to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination, precautionary labels were still necessary, he said, but should be used more sparingly. "Indiscriminate alibi labelling undermines, devalues and erodes trust in the message."
Anaphylaxis Campaign founder David Reading said overuse of 'may contain nuts' labelling had potentially dangerous consequences, as consumers might assume that it was being used as a legal safety blanket, and take unnecessary risks.