By Allergen Bureau

Survey shows imported Thai products need better allergen labelling

A product survey assessing the allergen label status on hundreds of prepacked food products imported from Thailand to Australia has found some carry significant risks for allergic consumers.

The survey included 549 Thai products purchased from seven Asian retail grocery stores and two major supermarkets in the Sydney metropolitan area. Most products (527, or 96 per cent) provided original labels in both Thai and English with no discrepancies. A precautionary allergen label (PAL) statement in English was provided on the original manufacturer’s label on 214 (39 per cent) of products. Only 154 products (28 per cent) also presented the PAL statement in Thai.

Of all products, 65 were analysed by ELISA for egg, milk, wheat, and peanut residues. Twenty-two (34 per cent) were found to contain at least one allergen residue, with detected levels ranging from 1 to 807 ppm. Thirteen of the products that tested positive had PAL statements; eight products had used PAL correctly, and five products had overused PAL.

Of products that were tested and had no labelled allergens and no PAL, none tested positive for peanut, egg, and wheat proteins, and only one product tested positive for milk.

Based on the Allergen Bureau’s VITAL® Program, risk assessment of the 13 products with PAL statements that tested positive indicated almost 11 per cent were unsafe and presented a high risk to allergic consumers.

The authors conclude their findings highlight the need for a globally agreed framework for PAL using evidence-based risk assessment tools such as the VITAL Program, particularly amongst trading countries.

Reference: Uraipong et al. 2021. Food Control. DOI: 10.1016/j.foodcont.2021.107881.