By Allergen Bureau

Do All Food Allergens Need Labelling?

The ad hoc joint FAO/WHO expert consultation on risk assessment of food allergens has released a report on whether certain foods and ingredients, such as highly refined components, that are derived from the list of foods known to cause hypersensitivity can be exempted from mandatory declaration. 

The report presents a flowchart for government authorities or food business operators to consider when or if exempting highly refined foods from allergen labelling would be acceptable.

The Expert Panel that authored the report and flowchart centred their assessment on the fact that the components in food that drive allergic responses are almost entirely proteinaceous in nature. Highly processed ingredients, such as highly refined oils, may contain very low levels of protein, and the protein fractions of other food ingredients may also be altered by food processing techniques.

The flowchart was developed and tested against allergen derivatives previously granted exemptions in various countries or regions and found to be effective for consideration in future exemption decisions – a so-called “weight of evidence” approach.

In using this approach, the Expert Committee advises that establishment of safety is dependent on data quality, consideration of outcome of the exposure assessment for all intended ingredient uses, and review by competent authorities. When safety is established, exemption can be justified.

The 102 page meeting report “Risk Assessment of Food Allergens” can be downloaded from the World Health Organisation website, with additional context and other reports produced by the FAO/WHO expert consultation also available here.