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Focus on food labelling education


Focus on food labelling education

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority is to step up its food labelling education programme on allergens as part of the implementation of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

The Food Standards Code, which came into full effect in December 2002, requires food manufacturers and importers to declare on food labels any common food product or substance that is capable of causing an allergic reaction in people. Commonly referred to as allergens, those specifically mentioned in the Code are:

Cereals containing gluten and their products (wheat, rye, barley, oats)

Crustacea (eg crayfish, crabs, prawns) and their products

Egg and egg products

Fish and fish products

Milk and milk products

Nuts, sesame seeds and their products

Peanuts, soybeans and their products

Royal Jelly

Sulphites

These allergens are said to cause about 90 percent of all food-related allergic reactions.

“Since the Code came into full effect several products have had to be recalled in New Zealand because they contained allergens that were not declared on the label. We are aware that Australia has had a similar experience so it is timely to remind manufacturers and importers of their obligations in this regard,” NZFSA Director Tim Knox said.

“Allergy New Zealand says that over 30,000 New Zealanders have a food allergy. The World Allergy Awareness Day last month highlighted the importance of this issue. Although symptoms in allergy sufferers vary greatly, allergic reactions can be fatal so it is important that consumers have all the information they need to make informed choices about what’s in the food they eat,” Mr Knox said.

As part of our implementation programme we have, this week, written to food manufacturers and importers to reinforce the importance of this issue and remind them of their obligations under the Food Standards Code regarding the labelling of foods containing allergens.

This follows an advertisement in eight daily newspapers last month, advising food manufacturers, importers and consumers of the new labelling requirements under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

A factsheet about allergen labelling and advisory/warning statements is available on the NZFSA website www.nzfsa.govt.nz. Hard copies can be obtained from local public health units.

More information on products available in New Zealand that are free of common food allergens can be found on the Manufactured Food Database funded by the Ministry of Health. The website address is www.mfd.co.nz.

“As always if people are concerned about their health following consumption of any food they should consult their health practitioner,” Mr Knox said.


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