Globally consistent use of precautionary allergen labelling

A large group of world experts in food allergy and immunology, including Katie Allen and Stephen Taylor from the Allergen Bureau VITAL Scientific Expert Panel, have recently published an open access article calling for an international framework to drive global consistency in allergen labelling, particularly precautionary allergen labelling (PAL). They stress the increasing importance of harmonising allergen labelling regulations across the world due to the increasing globalisation of food production and manufacturing.

The group see addressing inconsistencies across countries with regards to labelling legislation, as well as improvement or even banning of PAL, as significant steps forward in improved food safety for those who suffer food allergies.

In their article, the authors outline the current status of allergen labelling legislation around the world, providing evidence regarding the variations in government guidelines and regulatory oversight of food labelling. They present a useful table summarising labelling requirements in Argentina, Australia/New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, China, European Union, Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait/Gulf, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, USA, as well as the Codex Alimentarius regulations.

In reviewing the value of current existing PAL for the allergic consumer, the authors also present a table summarising regulation around the world in relation to PAL on prepacked foods. This table serves to highlight the variations and inconsistencies a food manufacturer faces when offering pre-packed food for sale in multiple jurisdictions.

The use of PAL is currently regulated in only 4 countries – Switzerland, Japan, Argentina and South Africa. The authors debate whether there is a greater place for legislation in facilitating an internationally consistent allergen labelling system, or whether a voluntary system can be used to drive the necessary changes.

The paper is freely available for download from the  www.waojournal.org

Reference: Allen et al. 2014. World Allergy Organisation Journal. Vol. 7(1) Pp.10.