Failure to adequately control the presence of allergens in dairy food or failing to correctly label products can present a serious risk to public health, and lead to expensive food recalls.
- Food allergy occurs in around 5-10% of children and 2-4% of adults in Australia and New Zealand.
- Approximately 1 in 10 Australian infants who are less than 1 year of age will develop a food allergy.
- The most common triggers of food allergy are egg, cow’s milk, peanut, tree nuts, sesame, soy, wheat, fish and other seafood.
- Children often outgrow milk and egg allergy.
- Signs and symptoms can include hives, swelling of the lips, face and eyes, abdominal pain, vomiting, swelling of the tongue, tightness of the throat, breathing difficulty, dizziness and/or collapse.
- Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) affect breathing and the heart and can therefore be life potentially threatening.
- Hospital admissions for anaphylaxis have increased 5-fold in the past 20 years.
- The frequency of food recalls due to the presence of undeclared allergens in Australia can be as high as 1 out of every 2 food recalls.
Allergen labelling can sometimes mean the difference between life and death for people with food allergies. Food producers must ensure that they meet the mandatory allergen labelling requirements in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
The Code specifies the allergens that must be on food labels. These allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sesame seeds, fish and shellfish, soy and wheat and lupins.
These ingredients must be declared on the food label whenever they are present as ingredients or as components of food additives or processing aids.
To find out more about the risks, real impacts and managing the responsibilities your business has in respect of allergens, the NSW Food Authority and Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia have a great publication, ‘Potentially Life Threatening, Be Prepared, Be Allergy Aware’, you can find it at this link.
And there’s very useful reference material to help you understand and implement your legal responsibilities available from the Australian Food & Grocery Council and the Allergen Bureau.