Consumer misconceptions about allergen labelling

 

The Food Standards Agency hasjust published the results of research carried out for them by the University of Surrey on how allergic consumers use and understand food labels. It makes quite alarming reading.

Their main conlulsions were as follows:

• The brand was important because participants trusted certain food companies more than others.

• The allergy advice box was used by many as a reliable source of information, often instead of the ingredients list. Most participants did not know that this information was voluntary and some assumed incorrectly the absence of an allergy advice box meant the product did not contain any of the main food allergens and was safe for them to eat.

'• May contain' warnings, were not seen as credible or desirable and were sometimes ignored. The majority of participants felt that it was almost impossible to avoid eating products with 'may contain' labelling. These precautionary warnings are used by some food manufacturers to indicate possible cross-contamination with a food allergen.

• When eating out, some people did not tell restaurant staff about their allergy because of social embarrassment and the fear it would further limit their choices. For some this led to increased risk-taking.

Click here for the full report.

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First Published in June 2011