Allergen labelling saves lives.
Some foods and food ingredients or their components can cause severe allergic reactions including anaphylaxis, which is why declaring allergens is important.
These are the most common foods that can cause allergic reactions in Australia and New Zealand:
· peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sesame seeds, fish, shellfish, soy, lupin, wheat.
The Food Standards Code requires suppliers to declare these foods on labels whenever they are present as:
· components of food additives
· components of processing aids
If the food isn’t in packaging or doesn’t need to have a label, the information must be displayed with the food or can be requested from the supplier.
For example, by asking about allergens in food prepared and sold from a takeaway shop.
Sulphites can cause severe health reactions in some people with asthma. Suppliers must declare sulphites when they have been added in amounts of 10 or more milligrams per kilogram of food.
Suppliers need to declare gluten-containing cereals so people with Coeliac Disease can identify these products. Gluten-containing cereals include:
· wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, hybrid strains of these cereals such as triticale.
The Food Standards Code also includes requirements for making 'gluten free' and 'low gluten' claims.
Royal jelly is a bee product that can cause severe allergic reactions. In rare cases it can cause death, especially in asthma and allergy sufferers. Food containing royal jelly must have a warning statement.
The Food Standards Code includes exemptions from allergen labelling for some foods and ingredients derived from allergenic sources.
These foods and ingredients have been assessed as safe.
This is because they are manufactured in a way to make them suitable for people allergic to wheat, soy, fish or dairy. You can read more about product exemptions from allergen labelling.
Aged bottled wine
Before 2002 wine producers were not required to declare allergens on their product label. However, food allergens such as egg, fish, milk, and tree nuts as well as sulphites may have been used in the production of these wines.
Therefore bottled wine, including sparkling wine and fortified wine, labelled with a vintage date before 2003 may not have these substances declared on the label.
May contain statements
Some food labels use 'may contain' or 'may be present' statements about certain allergens, such as 'may contain nuts'. These are voluntary statements made by food suppliers and the Food Standards Code does not regulate them.
Guidance for the food industry about the use of these statements and the management of allergen cross-contamination can be found on the Australian Food and Grocery Council website.
Proposed allergen labelling changes
FSANZ is currently considering changes to how food allergens are declared to make allergen labelling clearer. See Proposal P1044 Plain English allergen labelling.