An example of allergy labelling in bold
If you’re an avid food label reader (and I’m assuming you are) you will have noticed that certain ingredients are now being highlighted in bold. This is all down to new food labelling legislation, which becomes compulsory on December 13, 2014. It includes a new requirement for allergen information to be provided upon request for ‘loose’ foods as well, such as you would buy in a café, bakery, deli counter or market (or indeed in a hospital, school etc).
The EU has identified 14 food allergens that are particularly serious. These are presumably also particularly tricky to avoid – quite a few people are allergic to strawberries, for instance, but not eating food containing strawberries would be a lot simpler. These EU chosen few are*:
· cereals contain gluten (ie. wheat, barley, spelt, rye, kamut, etc etc)
· crustaceans (that’s lobsters and crabs)
· lupin (found as a flour in some baked products)
· sulphur dioxide (at levels about 10mg/kg or litre)
Unfortunately, it is sometimes not that easy to know which ingredient may be egg-derived, or contain gluten, or whatever. Whey? Contains milk. Bulgar wheat? Contains gluten. Buckwheat? Doesn’t contain gluten and not even related to wheat. And so on.
For some time there has been a little allergen list at the bottom of the ingredients. The idea behind highlighting problematic ingredients is to make it easier for people with food allergies to identify ingredients they need to avoid. There may still be a ‘may contain’ box as well, however, for those pesky trace allergens.
Do take a look at Sainsbury’s if you need to exclude certain allergens – they update their product guidance lists every month (or you can ask instore). They have identified thousands of products that do not contain certain allergens in the recipe and for which they have effectively controlled cross-contamination. You can ask for a tailor-made list if you need to avoid more than one allergen too.
* There are a few ingredients that are derived from foods on the list but are considered so highly processed that they are no longer capable of triggering an allergic reaction. You may still want to avoid them. Click here for the list as laid down by the EU.
A summation is as follows:
1. Sweeteners: wheat-based glucose syrups and dextrose; wheat-based maltodextrins; barley-based glucose syrups
2. Fish gelatine used for vitamins or to clarify beer or wine, also isinglass from fish for this purpose
3. Fat/oil: fully refined soybean oil or fat
4. Antioxidant: tocopherols (E306 - Vitamin E)
5. Cholesterol-reducing agents: phytosterols, phytosterol esters and plant stanol esters from soybean sources
6. Spirits made from gluten-containing cereals, nuts or milk (whisky would fall into this category, for instance)