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Proc Nutr Soc. 2005 Nov;64(4):475-80.

Review of statutory and voluntary labelling of food allergens.

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Food Standards Agency, Aviation House, London, UK.


Food allergy represents an increasingly important health problem, with prevalence in Western Europe continuing to rise. While some reactions are mild, others can include life-threatening anaphylactic shock. It is estimated that food allergies affect 1-2% of the adult population and < or =8% of children. Relatively few foods are to blame for a large majority of allergic reactions to food in the UK, with most reactions being to milk, eggs, peanuts (Arachis hypogea), nuts, fish, shellfish, soyabean, sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) and wheat. There is currently no cure for food allergy and the few available treatments are focused on relieving the specific symptoms. Consumers with food allergies and food intolerances rely on food labelling to enable them to make informed choices about the foods they eat. Whilst there have recently been important advances in the labelling of food allergens, these advances relate only to requirements for the labelling of the deliberate use of specified food allergens in foods sold pre-packed. In other areas the development of guidance for food manufacturers and retailers on how to assess the risks of possible allergen cross-contamination during food production and manufacture, and then to determine appropriate advisory labelling, is well advanced. Work to address the issue of how to provide appropriate allergen information for foods sold loose, or in catering establishments, is also in progress.

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