The EU has strict rules on the labelling of allergens as ingredients in food products, but no standardised system for the precautionary labelling of allergens that may find their way into other products. Yet despite the best efforts of the food and drinks industry to prevent contamination, manufacturers can rarely guarantee that their products are completely free from traces of unwanted allergenic substances.
To minimise the risks associated with this uncertainty, manufacturers use precautionary allergen labelling (PAL). This takes the form of warnings on product packaging that they may contain traces of certain allergens, even if they are not on the list of ingredients.
But FoodDrinkEurope, a trade association representing Europe’s food and drinks producers, has warned that the absence of EU-wide rules on PAL is threatening the system’s credibility among consumers, putting allergy sufferers at greater risk and undermining the single market.
No quantitative criteria
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.