FSANZ releases plain language allergen labelling report
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has today released its Plain English Allergen Labelling report with a number of recommendations for change made.
The report was written after FSANZ completed a review of the regulatory management of food allergens in 2010 and found that allergen declarations may not always be easily recognised or understood by consumers. The review, for example, discovered food producers may declare their product contains sodium caseinate, but the consumer might not know sodium caseinate is derived from milk.
Four key terminology problems identified
FSANZ’s report identified four key problems with terminology currently used for allergen declarations. These included:
1.Lack of standardisation and use of the ‘contains’ summary statements
FSANZ says there is a lack of standardisation in what terms are being used to declare allergens, mostly those in the ‘contains statement’. As the contains statement is voluntary it is not always consistent across food products. There is also the possibility that some terms in the contains statement could be confusing in nature.
FSANZ believes further investigation into possible options is required for standardising the use of ‘plain English’ terms across all allergen declarations.
2.The terms ‘cereals containing gluten’ and ‘tree nuts’ in Standard 1.2.3
Using the terms ‘cereals containing gluten’ and ‘tree nuts’ were concluded to be problematic as they are collective terms which can cause separate allergies.
3. The term ‘gluten’ is used for declarations of ‘cereals containing gluten’
FSANZ wrote declaring a product has gluten when it in fact had cereals containing gluten is not helpful to those who might have a cereal specific allergy, i.e. a wheat allergy
4. Lack of clarity in how the definition for ‘fish’ applies to allergen declarations
There is confusion over how to declare molluscus and crustacean. While molluscus and crustacean are being declared in ingredients list, some labels are just saying ‘contains fish’ in the contains statement. This is problematic as finfish and/or shellfish allergies are different to molluscus and crustacean allergies.
Although FSANZ said its report identified that ‘plain English’ is often being used to declare allergens in Australia and New Zealand it said that changes to the Food Standards Code and other work may be required to address the issues identified in the report.