New work on allergen labelling, as well as other food-related matters, is being proposed by Codex Alimentarius. Codex is the organisation that develops international standards aimed at protecting consumer health and ensuring fair practices in the food trade.
It has been accepted that the present allergen labelling provisions in the General Standard for Labelling of Pre-packaged Foods lack sufficient clarity and detail for industry on how allergens should be presented on food labels to ensure consumer protection.
The new work proposes to review and clarify the provisions relevant to allergen labelling in the Standard, and to develop guidance on precautionary allergen labelling (PAL). The aim is to provide clear and consistent allergen information for consumers, and increase international harmonisation to facilitate trade.
At present, in section 18.104.22.168 of Standard, the text states: “The following foods and ingredients are known to cause hypersensitivity and shall always be declared:
- Cereals containing gluten; i.e., wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt or their hybridized strains and products of these;
- Crustacea and products of these;
- Eggs and egg products;
- Fish and fish products;
- Peanuts, soybeans and products of these;
- Milk and milk products (lactose included);
- Tree nuts and nut products; and
- Sulphite in concentrations of 10 mg/kg or more.”
This section is among those that will be reviewed.
The main aspects of the new allergy-related work to be covered include:
1. A review of provisions relevant to allergen labelling in the Standard (and related texts) to consider:
- The scope, definitions and clarity of the existing provisions.
- Presentation, legibility and the terms to be used, including the suitability of ingredient labelling provisions when making declarations.
- The list of foods and ingredients in section 22.214.171.124 and the clarity of the groupings in that list.
2. The development of guidance on the use of PAL including principles for the use of PAL.
3. A request for scientific advice relating to the list of foods and ingredients in section 126.96.36.199 from the FAO and WHO on:
- Whether the published criteria for assessing additions and exclusions to the list is still current and appropriate.
- Whether there are foods and ingredients that should be added to or deleted from the list; or whether certain foods and ingredients, such as highly refined foods and ingredients, that are derived from the list of foods known to cause hypersensitivity can be exempted from mandatory declaration.