Food industry calls on EU to standardise allergen labelling

EUROPE – Food and drink producers in Europe have called on the European Union to develop EU-wide standards on the precautionary allergen labelling as a much needed step towards completing the single market.

As much as the EU has strict rules on labelling of allergens as ingredients in food products, no standardised system for precautionary labelling of allergens have been made.

Manufacturers can rarely guarantee that their products are completely free from traces of unwanted allergenic substances, which makes it harder to prevent contamination on their best food and drinks in the industry.

The manufacturers use precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) to minimise the risks associated with the uncertainties, which takes the form of warnings on products packaging that they may contain traces of certain allergens, even if not in the list of ingredients.

However, FoodDrinkEurope, a trade association representing Europe’s food and drink producers, warned that the absence of EU-wide rules on PAL is a threat to the system’s credibility among consumers, which puts allergy sufferers at greater risk, which eventually undermines single market.

FoodDrinkEurope, in a recent policy document, called on the Commission to produce a harmonised framework for the labelling of allergen information, using clear, standardised and easy to translate terms.

The association also stressed on the need for PAL process to be vigorously scientific.

“Consumers need to know that products have been through a risk assessment and that the presence or absence of PAL is a consequence of that process,” the association stated.

The EU currently has no quantitative criteria for precautionary allergen labelling in foods or drinks, meaning that member states are free to carry out their own risk assessments and set their own benchmarks for risk levels that must be labelled.

According to emailed comments to EURACTIV.com, the association said that allergy sufferers often think different standards represents a hierarchy of risk, or believe they can safely consume certain products that may in fact pose a threat.

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