Consumers pay more attention to allergy boxes than to ingredients lists
Research just published in the journal, Allergy suggests that the majority of nut or peanut allergic consumers use the 'allergy advice' or 'may contain' boxes rather than the ingredients list to guide them in their purchases of freefrom food. They said that they found it quicker and easier to read than the neurodendrite list although they did use the latter if they were in any doubt about the product.
images and product names which had not been intended by the manufacturer to be used as an allergen guide, were also used to make purchasing choices which were also guided by previous experience of a company's products or a general perceptions of the company's trustworthiness – not on any informed knowledge.
Nut allergy sufferers said that they would like the specific nuts to be listed rather than just a generalised nut warning.
Unfortunately, this research was published just after the MEPs had voted in favour of new labelling regulations which required allergens to be highlighted in the ingredients list so as to be more visible rather than specified in an allergen warning box as these consumers would appear to have preferred.
Given the results of the research manufacturers need to pay particular attention to the allergen warning boxes, products names and images, even if this is not required by law. In our experience, although some are excellent, some manufacturers make a nonsense of the system by including, in the 'freefrom' box allergens which have no apparent relationship to the product (a pasta with a 'mollusc-free' alert) or by failing to be specific about the level of risk ('manufactured in a factory which also processes mollusc's').
First Published in Febuary 2011