Grieving mother’s petition for changes to allergen labelling laws
A MOTHER haunted by the fatal allergic reaction of her nine-year-old daughter has started an online petition calling for changes to Australia’s allergen labelling laws.
Isabel Marrero in March this year died from a severe allergic reaction when eating the wrong Cadbury’s biscuit.
Her mum Helen thought she had bought Isabel her favourite Cadbury’s Chocolate Chip Cookies with “choc centre”, but given the similarity of the packaging, she had accidentally picked up the Cadbury’s “soft centre”, which contained an egg allergen.
Both biscuits have purple packaging, the same lettering and no visible allergen warning on the front of the packet.
Cadbury’s said after the Melbourne girl’s death it would change the packaging, though because the biscuits were made overseas the new versions would not appear on shelves until 2019.
The change.org petition with more than 16,000 “signatures” so far calls on federal health minister Greg Hunt and the Food Standards Australia New Zealand to make sure that allergen-containing products are clearly labelled on the front of the packet. Not just in the small print of the ingredient list, but much more visible.
“I am calling for an allergen symbol to be implemented on the front of food package as a warning, just like the symbols we see letting us know food products are gluten-free, Australian made, halal, or approved by the Heart Foundation,” Ms Marrero says.
“My daughter Isabel went into anaphylactic shock after eating an allergen-containing biscuit wrapped in almost identical packaging to the non-allergen version.
“It was a tragic mistake, but this is a tragedy that should be avoidable.”
The federal government funds the National Allergy Strategy towards improving clinical care and raising community awareness of allergies.
Five Australians have died from a severe allergic reaction after eating food that failed to specify allergens in the past eight years, say the authors of a University of Melbourne study published this month.
The medical experts say there is no reliable labelling system protecting consumers with food allergy from anaphylaxis, and government intervention is needed on food labelling to help save lives.
Lead researcher and Melbourne School of Population and Global Health Allergy and Lung Health Unit postdoctoral research fellow Giovanni Zurzolo is concerned that an allergen-specific Precautionary Allergen Label was missing in more than half the anaphylaxis examples recorded in the study.
Allergy support charity Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (AAA) says with the increase in food allergies in the general population more and more people are now living with the risk of a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Unclear or misleading labelling poses a serious danger.
Australia, like other countries, has no criteria for use of ‘free-from’ labelling.
Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia believes that something labelled ‘free-from’ must be absolutely free from that ingredient.
The rising chorus for action in Australia is being heard at the same time two high-profile deaths in Europe linked to international sandwich chain Pret a Manger make headlines.
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Fifteen-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died in July 2016 after eating a Pret baguette containing sesame seeds, with no ingredient labelling on the product packaging.
Celia Marsh, 42, had a fatal allergic reaction after eating a flatbread she purchased from Pret in December last year that was labelled dairy-free but was found to contain yoghurt.
Current EU regulations say fresh food products prepared on site do not need individual allergen labelling, but signage listing allergens should be posted around the store.
After an inquest was held into Natasha’s death, Pret has announced it will implement full ingredient labelling on all its freshly made products as of next month.
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