In November this year the European Council cleared new proposals to end the '25 per cent rule' and to strengthen the current labelling of food allergens on food products. Under the new rules, it will be mandatory to list all sub-ingredients of compound ingredients, which means that allergens cannot be "hidden".
The move is in response to the increasing phenomenon of food allergies - a potential health hazard to the consumer that can ruin lives. This week the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) published a report that reveals exactly how severe nut allergies can affect people's lives on a daily basis.
The research, carried out by the agency as part of its on-going investigation into 'may contain' labelling, confirms that the meaning of this type of labelling is not as clear as it could be.
According to the report, many of the nut allergic individuals questioned found the 'may contain' labels on pre-packed food inconsistent and confusing. The FSA research revealed that a large proportion of the adults interviewed admitted to taking risks by eating some foods that had the warnings - because they were baffled by the information on the label.
This research, along with the agency's previous report on food allergy labelling, will be discussed with key stakeholder groups at a meeting in early 2003.
Let's hope that the new European legislation - expected to be on the shelves by 2005 - will put an end to the potentially harmful confusion revealed by the FSA report.