25 ways of saying ”May Contain”

Challenges in Precautionary Allergen Labelling (PAL) was a topic of conversation at the recent Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting (FAAM), held online in October 2020.

Sabine Schnadt, a representative of a German patient advocacy group, presented data, examples and possible solutions to the problems that PAL poses for food-allergic individuals. Her 2020 FAAM presentation was covered in a media report ‘May Contain’ Food Allergen Labeling Can’t Be Trusted’, as well as in the article ‘Wrongly Labeled: Challenges and Ways Forward in Food Allergen Labeling.

Ms Schnadt reportedly noted that everyone does PAL differently, and nobody seems to have the same standards for what constitutes an unsafe level of an allergen. She presented research evidence of the lack of consumer trust in ‘May Contain’ allergen statements, highlighting a need for regulation based on a quantitative assessment and according to reference doses.

The same articles included a quote from the FAAM 2020 presentation by Professor Michael Walker, UK Government Chemist: “With now over 25 ways of saying ‘May Contain,’ people with food allergies tend to not trust it or ignore it”. This eludes to previous research that surveyed the use of numerous PAL statements found on food labels.

Ms Schnadt pointed to the ongoing work by Codex Alimentarius Commission as a way forward. Codex is looking at food allergen qualitative risk assessment, reference dose, and PAL guidelines, with their recommendations expected in the coming months. She hopes that when Codex come to their conclusions and are in favour of giving PAL a framework, those in the European Union will adopt the framework.

The full FAAM 2020 program has more information about all the topics covered during the annual meeting in October.

More media coverage from the meeting can be found on the dedicated Medscape website.