Study reveals unclear labels are causing anaphylactic reactions

A new study has raised concerns that unclear allergy labelling on food is causing anaphylactic reactions in the Queensland community and national-wide.

The facts

Currently, it’s mandatory for packaged foods to declare potential allergens that are present in their ingredients. This includes food additives and any allergens used in processing, however, labels to communicate the possibility that allergens may be present are still voluntary.

Statements such as “may contain traces” aren’t compulsory if the food has accidently come in contact with trigger foods. Trigger foods that are causing the highest concern are peanuts, other tree nuts, cashews, milk, eggs, walnuts, sesame seeds, and prawns.

This issue has the potential to seriously impact for people with Celiac Disease, Crohn’s disease, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

The study (performed in conjunction with the Royal Children’s Hospital, the University of Sydney, and the University of Melbourne) surveyed 864 Australians with allergies and anaphylaxis over nine months.

During the study, 6.7% reported experiencing reactions to foods where the suspected trigger allergen was not listed as an ingredient and of that group 8.6% claimed there was no precautionary “may contain’” warning on the label.

What needs to be done

In Australia currently, 60% of products in grocery stores already have “may be present” and “may contain traces” labels. This has led to confusion amongst consumers about whether a food has allergens present. This uncertainty can cause anxiety for people with severe allergies, with many second guessing and being restricted with their food choices.

Researchers have urged that Australia tightens their regulations around allergen labelling. By making these precautionary labels mandatory for all packaged food, or taking any action to make packaging clearer could have a massive positive impact on those who have allergies.