Read ingredient labels every time a food is purchased as ingredients and manufacturing processes can change.
By Law, the allergens that must be labelled on a packaged product are:
Peanut, tree nuts, milk (dairy), egg, soy, fish, crustacea, mollusc, sesame, lupin, wheat and gluten (must state the grain e.g. wheat, rye, barley or oats). Sulphites must also be labelled if they are present in the food at 10mg/kg or more.
Under the old law for which labels may still be used until 2026, other names may be used for the major allergens on some labels. A list of the many different names for each of the common allergens is available from the following weblinks:
For more information on mandatory allergen labelling, review the Food Standards Code on the FSANZ website: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au
Precautionary allergen statements (such as 'may contain…' statements) are used to communicate a risk of cross contamination with the food allergen. 'May contain' means that during growing, storing and making the food, the product may have been unintentionally cross-contaminated with a food allergen and the product may be a risk to the allergic consumer.
Precautionary allergen statements are voluntary and unregulated and therefore a product that does not have a precautionary allergen statement is not necessarily ‘safe’. Contacting the manufacturer and asking about manufacturing practices is one way to find out about the level of risk.
People with food allergy and/or their carers should also discuss the risks of eating foods with precautionary allergy statements with their allergy specialist and dietitian.
Manufacturers are encouraged to use the VITAL (Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling) process, a voluntary program which determines if precautionary labelling is required. For more information visit: www.allergenbureau.net/vital/
The ASCIA dietary avoidance information sheets provide additional information about managing the common food allergens:
For information about understanding food labels for food allergy:
These short practical videos are part of a series developed to help you to choose, store and prepare foods if you or a family member or friend has a food allergy.
What information must appear on a food label
How to find allergens on food labels
Precautionary allergen labelling statements