Australasian study finds fault in food allergen labelling

Research funded by the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) and Victoria University has looked at anaphylaxis in Australasia from consumption of packaged food products with or without precautionary allergen labelling, where the known allergen triggers were not a listed ingredient.

A questionnaire was sent to all 548 members of ASCIA and a 36% response rate was achieved. These clinicians were asked to report whether they had seen any patients over the last three months reporting anaphylaxis following ingestion of a packaged food where the suspected food allergen was not a listed ingredient.

There were 14 reports of anaphylaxis to packaged foods (where the suspected allergen was not a listed ingredient), which met the case definition over the nine month survey period. Half of the reactions were reported from foods that did not have a precautionary statement, and half were due to peanuts.

These results lead the researchers to conclude there is currently no reliable labelling system that can inform food-allergic consumers of safer food choices. They call for improvements in the regulation of food labelling with precautionary labelling.

The Allergen Bureau is well aware of this complex issue and continues to champion for consistent, science-based, allergen risk assessment and labelling. The Allergen Bureau is currently working on a certification scheme – which would work for both consumers and food manufacturers – to allow Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling (VITAL)-accredited products to be identified.

According to media reports associated with the publication of this research, the group are also planning larger studies as they believe this survey may have uncovered only a fraction of cases.

Reference: Zurzolo et al. 2018. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health Doi.10.1111/jpc.13823

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