The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today announced that it is providing a new free email and SMS text service which will directly inform food allergy sufferers of the presence of allergens in inappropriately labelled foods. Anyone with an interest in this area can subscribe to receive these alerts via the FSAI’s website. Food allergen alerts will be issued by the FSAI upon receipt of information that a food product poses a risk to certain consumers’ health, due to missing or incorrect allergen labelling. Food allergen alerts will also be issued to enforcement officers and food businesses. This service is available from today.
The FSAI also announced today that is seeking to establish further information on the incidence and type of allergies in Ireland. A short online survey starts today on its website, which poses questions to people, or parents/guardians of children, with an allergy. The FSAI is urging people to participate in the survey, as it will assist in its deliberations in this area and on the regulatory process governing the presence of allergens in food.
The FSAI states that it is estimated that in Ireland, approximately 5% of children and, on average, 3% of adults have food allergies. Manufacturers are legally required to declare the presence of specified allergens, when they are used in the manufacture or preparation of pre-packaged food. There are currently 14 categories of ingredients according to EU legislation, namely: cereals containing gluten; crustaceans; eggs; fish, soybeans; milk; celery and celeriac; mustard; sesame seeds; sulphur dioxide and sulphites; peanuts; tree nuts; molluscs; and lupins.
According to Professor Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI, those who have an established allergy and the parents of children with an established allergy are being encouraged to subscribe online to receive the email and/or SMS text alert notifications.
“The ultimate objective of this new notification system is to prevent people who have an established food allergy from purchasing or consuming a food product which may be detrimental to their health. We are also calling on all food manufacturers and processors to regularly review the composition of their final product and ensure that the presence of an allergen is clearly visible on the food label. By law, the food manufacturer must also clearly indicate on the label, the name of the ingredient from which the allergen originates.”
The FSAI is concerned at the rise in the number of foods carrying labels to indicate that they may contain certain allergens.
“Information on labels such as ‘may contain nuts’ or ‘manufactured on a line that also uses nuts’ is voluntary and likely to be of little benefit to allergy sufferers. It can also provide a quick fix for those food business operators unwilling or unable to adhere to good manufacturing practices and HACCP controls. As the use of these labels can unnecessarily restrict the food choices available to allergen sufferers, the FSAI is urging manufacturers to be prudent in their allergen advice and prioritise the needs of allergen sufferers. In any event, information included by manufacturers on a food label must not mislead consumers.”
“For people who have been medically diagnosed, their life-long treatment is usually strict avoidance of foods that give rise to their allergy. Correct information on the food label is crucial in managing an allergy. Certain foods and ingredients can trigger adverse health effects in people. Their immune systems can react because the body incorrectly recognises a substance as harmful. In some cases, this can happen almost immediately upon consumption with common symptoms including coughing, wheezing, a rash visible on the skin and itching of the eyes, nose and throat. When a severe reaction occurs a person can develop anaphylaxis which is life threatening,” Prof Reilly concluded.
All interested parties can subscribe to receive free email and/or SMS alerts when a food allergen alert notification is issued.