FSANZ invites submissions on allergen labelling requirements

Tuesday, 06 March, 2018

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Allergen labelling has become crucial as more consumers report allergies and sensitivities to certain foods. However, consumers are often forced to navigate their way through labelling claims and complex terminology, which can put their health at risk.

As a result, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has called for submissions on a proposal that will make allergen labelling requirements clearer for both consumers and manufacturers.

Labelling, declaration and terminology of certain allergens were highlighted as major issues that need to be addressed. While the Food Standards Code does require 10 allergens to be labelled, it fails to outline what specific terminology should be used.

FSANZ suggested the terminology for fish, crustacea and molluscs; tree nuts; and cereals containing gluten was unclear. It also identified issues with the terminology used in ingredient lists compared to declarations made in other places on the label.

The technical language that is currently used to describe ingredients is confusing for consumers and does not allow them to make safe food choices. For example, sodium caseinate is sourced from dairy, but consumers may not be aware if the information was presented in this language.

Instead, plain English allergen labelling (PEAL) is being suggested as a means to provide clarity and reduce allergy risks to consumers.

According to FSANZ Chief Executive Officer Mark Booth, a lack of regulatory clarity is responsible for the unclear wording on some food labels.

“At the moment, some food allergens must be declared on food labels whenever they are present as an ingredient, food additive or processing aid,” Booth said. “However, there are no requirements about how the declarations must be made.

“Simpler, clearer, more easy-to-understand labels is the goal.”

This consultation paper is the first of two, and FSANZ is asking for feedback on these potential changes, alongside evidence of consumer use and understanding of allergen labelling. They will use this information to inform the second consultation paper, which will include draft amendments to the Food Standards Code.

Image credit: ©MinervaStudio/Dollar Photo Club

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