Date Published: 11 July 2006

FSA issues new guidance to improve food labels for consumers with allergies

Examples of highly visual warnings about ingredients that might cause allergic reactions in some people

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued new guidance to food producers and retailers to help improve food labelling for people with allergies. Research by the FSA has shown that many warnings such as 'may contain nuts' are used so widely on pre-packed foods that many consumers are unable to assess the risks and so simply ignore them.

Unlike the situation for deliberately added ingredients, there are no statutory controls governing the labelling of the possible presence of allergens due to cross-contamination of foods along the supply chain.

The FSA's Allergen Management and Advisory Labelling Guidance provides voluntary best practice guidance to help businesses of all sizes assess the risk of cross-contamination with allergens and provide appropriate advisory labels that are clearer for consumers to understand. A specific leaflet has also been produced for small businesses as many have different needs and concerns to those of larger companies.

Sue Hattersley, Head of the Food Standards Agency's Food Allergy Branch, said:

" Up to 1.5 million people in the UK have food allergies and it is vital that they are fully informed about the contents of the foods they are buying. Advisory labelling should only be used when, following a thorough risk assessment, there is a real risk of allergen cross-contamination.
_ Excessive use of warning labels about the possible presence of allergens, can restrict consumer choice and devalue the impact of warning labels."

David Reading, Director of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, said:

" We are delighted to see this guidance published and believe it will ensure a consistent approach to controlling and communicating the presence of food allergens in pre-packed foods.
_ Living with food allergy is fraught with risk and creates tremendous anxiety. The new guidance has the potential to improve things considerably for those affected."

Source(s): Food Standards Agency (FSA), UK

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