Does Australia need better food allergen labelling regulation?

There are calls for more stringent labelling measures after a study of consumer group Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia members showed many have suffered anaphylactic reactions after eating foods that were not labelled for the suspected allergen.

During a nine month period (June 2017 – February 2018) over 40% of Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia members responded to a survey that asked for self-reported details of any allergic reactions to packaged food, the food ingested and details of the product label. Responses were assessed against the ASCIA definition for anaphylaxis – with those reactions not meeting the ASCIA definition excluded, as were any reactions to foods where the trigger allergen was listed as an ingredient.

Results showed 6.7% of responders had experienced anaphylaxis from a packaged food where the suspected trigger allergen was not a listed ingredient. Of these 58 participants, almost 54% reported that a Precautionary Allergen Label (PAL) statement was present but it did not specify the trigger food, 38% reported that the PAL statement specified the suspected trigger food, and about 9% reported that there was no PAL statement present on the food.

Suspected trigger/s were peanuts (19), ‘other’ tree nuts (11), cashews (8), milk (9), eggs (5) walnuts (3), sesame seeds (2), and prawns (1).

The study authors say in light of these and similar findings in other studies, improved regulation around precautionary allergen labelling and patient education is required.

Reference: Zurzolo et al. 2018. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice

DOI: 10.1016/j.jaip.2018.09.006