Dec 21st, 2020
6 mins

Lynne Regent, CEO of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, is calling for new legislation on Precautionary Allergen Labelling (PAL). Those individuals who suffer from allergies often also suffer with anxiety due to fear of death from anaphylactic shock. The wording, or even lack of it, on the PAL on products could lead to confusion and even potential death.

Anaphylaxis occurs when an individual is exposed to something they are allergic to eg food. It can occur within minutes or hours. The body releases chemical substances resulting in a reaction between the allergic antibody and the allergen, leading to a fall in blood pressure, swelling, rashes, nausea, collapse and ultimately unconsciousness.

The Anaphylaxis Campaign discovered, after undertaking research into allergen labelling, that there were 43 different ways that PALs can express ‘may contain’.

Lynne Regent, CEO, stated that labelling was better now but that there was still room for improvement, “We need to keep it simple, a product should read ‘may contain’ or ‘not suitable for’ but some insist on putting things like ‘made on a line, made in a factory’ which mean nothing to the consumer because they cannot assess the risk based on such statements.” Regent also stated that until legislation is in place that they advise people to take seriously the ‘may contain’ warnings on packaging. There is also no way of knowing how much of the food has been exposed to the potential allergen which can affect the need for a ‘may contain’ label.

The Anaphylaxis Campaign confirmed that scientists were confident they had sufficient information on the threshold levels for eleven allergenic foods which include: peanut, milk, egg, some tree nuts (hazelnut and cashew), soy, wheat, mustard, lupin, sesame and shrimp/prawn. Fish and Celery are still under analysis.

Gluten, in the UK, has a legal threshold dose of no more than 20 parts per million, however, those with wheat allergies should be aware that ‘gluten free’ may not be safe for them to consume. This is due to the fact that they may react to wheat proteins if a reasonable portion is consumed in a product with less than 20 parts per million. NB: This threshold level is safe for those suffering with coeliac disease.

A programme known as VITAL is assisting food producers in risk assessment by identifying the potential impact of allergen ‘cross contact’ in products. It also specifies the PAL statement to be used.

Regent did clarify that “The majority of companies do understand labelling well and the legislation the UK does have, is excellent.” She further added that, “The 14 allergens are listed in bold on all products and all ingredients feature on the label.”

Natasha’s Law, which followed the death of Natasha Laperouse following exposure to an allergen, is coming into effect soon and this will have an impact on pre-packed goods for direct sale in Britain. It will make it safer for those suffering with allergies but food companies must understand their responsibility following the change. Any company in need of further advice can contact the FSA and Government bodies. The Anaphylaxis Campaign also run a number of training courses which are mostly free.

There is currently no cure for anaphylaxis or allergies.


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