Clarification on food allergy labelling laws

Food allergy labelling laws

This is a topic I often see discussed and it seems a lot of people do not seem to understand the law that applies to food allergy labelling, people are guessing at the numbers on foods etc but the thing is the law does not expect consumers to be googling all of the different numbers, the ordinary consumer is not a food technician and is not expected to know what each of the numbers means and whether it contains any of the top 8 allergens, therefore there are laws in place that require the food manufacturer to disclose same.

For clarification, I provide the following information which has been adapted from the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website: and the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code:

Please note that legislation can change therefore, as always I urge you to look into matters for yourself as this is what I have found only at this day and things could change in the future (although you would hope not!).

Most food allergies are caused by peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sesame seeds, fish and shellfish, soy and wheat. These ingredients must be declared on the food label whenever they are present as ingredients or as components of food additives or processing aids, however small the amounts present in the food. – Section 1.2.3-4(1) Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code

If the food is not in a package or is not required to have a label (for example, food prepared at and sold from a takeaway shop), this information must either be displayed in connection with the food or provided to the purchaser if requested.

Gluten-containing cereals need to be declared on the label so people with Coeliac Disease and cereal allergies can identify these products. Gluten-containing cereals include wheat, rye, barley, oats and hybrid strains of these cereals (e.g. triticale).

Sulphite preservatives must also be declared on the label if added at 10 (or more) milligrams per kilogram of food.

Complaints about suspected undeclared allergens in foods should be directed to your local food enforcement agency. Please visit our food enforcement contacts web page for details.

Some exemptions do apply however because they deemed safe as they are processed in a way that makes them suitable for consumers who are allergic to wheat, soy or dairy:

Allergen labelling of wine
Food allergens such as sulphites and derivatives of egg, fish, milk, and tree nuts may be used as fining agents in the wine production process. These substances are said to be largely removed through filtration however, small residual amounts may be present in the final product and therefore must be declared.

NOTE However that the wine labelling laws only came into affect in 2002 therefore vintage wines with a date of 2003 or earlier will not contain the disclosure.

‘May contain’ statements
Some food labels state ‘may contain’ certain allergens, such as ‘may contain nuts’. These are voluntary statements made by a food manufacturer and are not regulated by the Food Standards Code.

What to do if you think a supplier has breached the law

The packet is the source of information that by law you are meant to rely on, if there is confusion, you can check their website, however you are not expected to do this, the packet is by law required to state the current ingredients and disclose any allergens as required by law.

If there is any confusion, contact the manufacturer direct by email or social media so that you have a response in writing, or if timing is important, telephone them but be sure to note down who you spoke to and what they said.

If you are still dissastified with the information, you can lodge an enquiry with your local state food authority. You can also contact the Allergy and Anaphylaxis Group Australia as they can assist in lodging a complaint:

Retain the packet and product if possible.

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