Food allergy or intolerance? Here’s a handy hint.

Written by Guest post on Wednesday, 20 May 2020.
Tagged: allergies, allergy, gluten intolerance, health, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, nutrition

Food allergy or intolerance? Here’s a handy hint.

If you’re allergic to one of the allergens that have to be declared on food labels or have a particular food intolerance then you’re probably an avid reader of the fine print on food labels. However, there are times when this may not help you. Here’s a handy hint to help bridge that gap.

What are “declared allergens”?

The Food Standards Code requires labelling of the ten most common allergens as well as sulphites which are often used as a preservative (you’ll spot them on fruity drinks and wines). These ten are:

  1. crustaceans
  2. eggs
  3. fish
  4. milk
  5. peanuts
  6. soybeans
  7. tree nuts
  8. sesame seeds
  9. gluten
  10. lupin 

Undeclared allergens and food recalls

We’re probably all aware of the major food recalls. They get broadcast on TV and Radio News programs fairly widely. Whether it’s for a particular brand of milk contaminated with E.coli or strawberries with needles in them or some other health-related issue. However, there is a category of food recall that doesn’t get wide publicity because it doesn’t affect the majority of the community. These recalls are for mislabelled products that contain undeclared allergens such as undeclared peanuts, dairy, shellfish and the like.

What can you do?

If you’re allergic to certain foodstuffs or intolerant to them, as in gluten intolerance, then you really need know that the products that you have in your cupboard are safe. Presumably you’ve checked the label but if the manufacturer hasn’t declared allergens properly then that’s not much help to you.

ProductRecall site

The ACCC manages the Product Safety Australia website. Here you can check any product recalls (including for products other than foods) and you can also subscribe to their email list.

The website allows you to search for recalls but it also has a dropdown list of categories of recalls for you to filter by.

Categories

In addition, if you click on the Contact Us Page you’ll see that in addition to being able to report product problems, you can also subscribe to a newsletter and receive email updates.

emailchoices

When you sign up for emails, you can select which kinds of products (including foods) you would like information about. Most food recalls are for undeclared allergens and you can have this information delivered to your inbox as it comes to hand just by subscribing to this free service.

signup

Check out FSANZ too

Food Safety Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) also provides alerts on 'consumer level recalls'. You can check them out here. They have been collecting data on Australian food recalls for the last  20 years. During the last 10 years 40 per cent  (283 recalls) have been for undeclared allergens with 26 per cent (181 recalls) being for microbial contamination. Milk is the most often undeclared allergen at 30 per cent with peanuts being responsible of 14 per cent of undeclared allergen recalls.

FSANZ 2019 SurveyYou can find out more information on the causes and detection of these undeclared allergens here. As with the ACCC you can also sign up for the FSANZ electronic subscription service which will allow you to keep up with the latest developments in food regulation.

Stay informed

If you or your family members have allergies or food intolerances then it pays to be fully informed. These free government services allow you to do this and could be a real lifesaver!

Thanks to Munaiba Khan for this post. She is a retired Naturopath with an interest in nutrition.