Canadian consumers asked to help guide better food allergen labelling

Various food allergen labelling requirements have been introduced around the world in the past two decades. Despite this, little has been done to investigate the best way to present allergen information to consumers. A recent Canadian study set about improving this knowledge base by asking consumers about their preferences in food labelling for allergy avoidance and anaphylaxis prevention.

The researchers established a discrete choice experiment questionnaire that presented participants with an array of different choice sets representing hypothetical but realistic choice allergen labelling scenarios. Prior to the development of the questionnaire, focus groups with representatives from the general population as well as families with food-allergic member/s were used to identify specific attributes of allergen-related food labelling that are most important to consumers.

Three distinct subgroups of Canadian consumers with different allergen considerations and food allergen labelling needs were identified. Class 1 respondents identified the use of symbols as most important. Class 2 respondents, who were most concerned about both the presence of a safety statement and the use of symbols, were also most likely to consider allergens when shopping for food and were willing to pay an additional $10–$50 for the inclusion of the allergen information. Class 3 respondents, who chose placement of information as most important, were the most likely not to consider allergens at all when purchasing food and were not willing to pay any additional amount for the inclusion of allergen information.

Overall preferences were for standardized precautionary and safety symbols, with little or no increase in cost for improved food allergen labelling.

Reference: Marra et al. 2017 Allergy Asthma and Clinical Immunology Vol13(19) doi: 10.1186/s13223-017-0189-6. This is an Open Access publication.