By Allergen Bureau

Final meeting of the Expert Consultation on food allergen risk assessment

The third in a series of three meetings of an ad hoc Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Risk Assessment of Food Allergens was held in October/November 2021. The main purpose was to review and evaluate the evidence in support of precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) on pre-packaged foods to help guide the future work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

In previous meetings, the experts:

  • achieved consensus on a recommended revision to the list of global priority allergens; and
  • established threshold levels for these priority allergens in foods and reviewed available analytical capabilities for the monitoring of food allergens.

In the third meeting, the expert committee affirmed that PAL should only be reserved for those situations where unintended allergen presence (UAP) cannot be avoided and should not make up for poor allergen management practices or production errors during food manufacturing.

Furthermore, to be effective, PAL should only be used when the level of UAP, demonstrated through risk assessment, exceeds established risk-based threshold values for a particular food allergen.

To protect allergic consumers and to foster trust in PAL, additional recommendations made by the expert committee include that PAL be integrated into regulatory frameworks and that a single, clear and unambiguous statement be used. They also recommend that PAL be supported by effective risk communication and education programs so manufacturers, consumers and other stakeholders better understand strategies to communicate precautionary messages relating to risks posed by UAP in products.

A summary report of the third meeting is available on the FAO website. Meeting reports for the first and second meetings are also available.