Food Labelling – Making sense of the nightmare
Food labels can be a nightmare, especially if you’re trying to avoid multiple food allergens. Learning how to identify possible allergens in food can be quite difficult, but hopefully we can help clear some of the confusion. In Australia and New Zealand, food labels concerning potential allergens are broken into two categories: mandatory inclusions, and voluntary information. Mandatory inclusions are the allergens written in bold, whereas voluntary information are listed after the ingredients list, usually written as “may contain traces of…”. So, what’s the difference? Ingredients written in bold are included in the product, and by law must be clearly visible. On the other hand, this is where things get quite confusing. “May contain traces of…” is a blanket quote included by the manufacturer as a warning that the particular food was made on equipment used to make food that contains a potential allergen. The manufacturer cannot guarantee that a certain product is 100% safe, so as a guide they include this or a similar warning on their packaging. The potential for cross contamination is very real when a manufacturer makes multiple products on shared equipment.
It can be quite daunting at first, as we found out in the early days, but being armed with this vital information will empower you to be confident in spotting often hidden allergens in food. It can be rather confusing and a bit scary at first. Try practicing on food that you already have at home. See how different manufacturers provide potential allergy information. Do they suggest visiting their website? Do they have a hotline to ring? Companies welcome contact with their customers regarding allergies and often will list further information on their website. Fast food chains do this too. Food labelling has come a long way, with improvements always evolving. In the coming weeks we will be taking a look at the common food allergens and the components they’re broken down to, for example, cow’s milk is made into around a dozen different ingredients. This can make something already difficult even more so, but we’ll list them by their known names just to make it a little easier. We hope this helps alleviate some of the confusion!