Voluntary allergen labelling could be allowed by law

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Labelling could be based on allergic reaction to thresholds
Labelling could be based on allergic reaction to thresholds

Related tags Allergy European food safety authority

Controversial provisions for voluntary allergen labelling could become legally incorporated within the Food Information for Consumers Regulations (FIC), according to a leading expert in the field.

The precautionary labelling would be based on allergic reaction thresholds, drawing on ‘action levels’ that Europe's food industry plans to use to ensure safe factory production and inform allergen labelling of products. That's according to René Crevel, science leader allergy and immunology with Unilever.

Progress on the adoption of the thresholds is expected as soon as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) publishes its opinion following a review into the latest allergen research, said Crevel.

“Should​ [EFSA] choose not to produce an opinion specifically on this particular problem, we should try to move forward based on the general science and industry agreement,”​ said Crevel, who also chairs the food allergy taskforce of the European branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI).

Come in for a lot of flak

However, Crevel also suggested that rather than being solely a voluntary industry approach, designed to ensure greater transparency and consistency of allergen threshold labelling, it could be incorporated into FIC. Voluntary ‘may contain’ labels have come in for a lot of flak for being overused and not helpful to allergen suffers.

“There could be a debate as to whether the actual levels should be placed in the regulation, so that they can be revised more regularly,”​ he added. Speaking at Food Manufacture's Food safety conference* last month, Crevel, described the latest research based originally on the Australian Allergen Bureau’s Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling (Vital) system.

‘Vital reaction studies’

Crevel said: “The Vital reaction studies will provide a high level of protection to allergic consumers. At least 99% will be totally protected, but those who are not totally protected will still be in a situation where they will experience mild reactions that are controllable.”

He added: “One of the problems is that it is not transparent at the moment. People use different standards, so nobody can actually say a product is safe or is not safe.”

*Food Manufacture's Food safety conference took place on October 17. Sponsors for the event were Intertek, Ishida and Alchemy, plus NSF International, Safefood 360 and the Institute of Food Research.

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Common approach with VITAL possible

Posted by Dr. Sylvia Pfaff,

The actual situation for a food allergic person is not satisfying: you never know if precautionary labelling was used (or not used) due to a thorough risk assessment and an allergen management system. This has to be the common approach for the food industry. VITAL (Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling) will be a good starting point with defined reference doses and action levels.
Dr. Sylvia Pfaff (VITAL Trainer for Germany)

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Posted by Christopher North,

My Grandson became ill last week. He avoids foods with known MSG [monosodium glutamate] links. Grandma cooked him a chicken dinner and he was ill shortly afterwards. The only MSG we could find was in the chicken gravy mix from Bisto. Have spoken to Premier Foods and they are looking into it. But as they said it is on the approved list.

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