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Allergen labelling for our foods.

In order to achieve a higher level of health protection for consumers and to guarantee their right to information, EU legislation has recently been modified. Food labelling should ensure transparent labelling of food ingredients classed as potential allergens.

Providing justification for the new legislation, a panel at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) earlier this year claimed there is ample evidence to justify the mandatory inclusion on food labels of the most common food allergen ingredients and their derivatives.

The new EU Directive 2003/89/EC (amending Directive 2000/13/EC) on the indication of ingredients in food requires food manufacturers to fist 12 groups of potential allergens if they are used as ingredients in pre-packed foods, including alcoholic drinks, regardless of their quantity. The allergens include cereals containing gluten, fish, crustaceans, eggs, peanuts, soy, milk and dairy products including lactose, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seed, and sulphites. They are responsible for over 90% of all allergic reactions. The list of allergenic food ingredients included in the Annex of the Directive will be re-examined and updated as required, on the basis of the most recent scientific knowledge.

Getting to the practical details of the changes, as a general rule, labelling exceptions will no longer be accepted for allergens. In particular, ingredients derived from a substance on the list of allergenic ingredients will normally have to be declared as such, for instance, lecithin (from soybean). However, given the possibility that certain derivatives of known food allergens may not trigger an allergic reaction, this same legislation also provides for possible exemption to this.

In order to prepare a list of derivatives of allergenic ingredients for which mandatory labelling is not required, the European Commission has requested EFSA to evaluate a number of applications. EFSA will provide in the coming months scientific advice regarding the likelihood of their triggering adverse reactions following their consumption by susceptible individuals under the conditions specified by the applicant. Based on the Opinions published so far, substances likely to be exempted include glucose syrups from wheat, refined soybean oil, various distillates from nuts and protein ingredients used in the "fining" (clearing) of wines.

The new Directive 2003/89/EC entered into force on 25 November 2003. Member States had one year (until 25 November 2004) to transpose the provisions of the Directive into their national legal systems.

Manufacturers have a further year to make sure their labels fully comply with the rules, meaning that from 25 November 2005 traded products must comply with the new legislation. However, products which have been put on the market or been labelled before that date, are allowed to be sold until stock has run out.

Contact EUFIC on tel: +32 2 506 89 89 or visit or
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Title Annotation:INFORMALIA
Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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