Hurdles to overcome

There were many problems to overcome with this project. One of the first difficulties was agreeing definitions for tolerance levels of the ingredients and additives included on the EFID databanks. A sub-committee of medical and analytical experts was set up to discuss the sensitivity of the latest techniques to detect allergens in food and current thinking as regards the threshold for intolerance reactions for different ingredients. There was also a considerable amount of discussion regarding what the lists should be called in each country. Since the start of the UK and Dutch systems, the term 'free from X' had been used to name the booklets, but in some countries this terminology presented legal problems, which would be unacceptable to manufacturers wishing to contribute information on their products. A range of alternative terms was therefore devised in each country, which were acceptable to both the food industry and the legal advisers.

In addition, there was found to be a variation in the legal liability between the different EC countries if a product was incorrectly declared as 'free from'. In most countries, there is no obligation to inform consumers who suffer from food intolerance of the presence or absence of potential allergens in food, but if the manufacturer chooses to inform the consumer he will be liable for the information provided. The liability for injuries and negligence were the elements most likely to vary in different Member States.

There was also a significant increase in awareness of food allergy and intolerance over the course of the project. As a result, the Codex Alimentarius started discussions on the Proposed Draft Labelling of Allergens that can Cause Sensitivity (Alinorm 95/22). The prospect of potential mandatory labelling of allergens in the future delayed and, in some cases, led to a cessation in the establishment of food intolerance databanks in certain countries. This was due to a belief that there would be no need for the databanks if all the ingredient information was available to the consumer via the product label. This view was not supported by all the partners, however, and many believed that food intolerance databanks would have an important future role. This was largely because, firstly, they avoid the need to scrutinise the labels of every product when shopping, which can be extremely time-consuming and frustrating. Secondly, they are useful where a consumer may not be able to identify an ingredient on a label that they should avoid; for example, an individual allergic to milk may not realise that casein is a milk derivative. Finally, it is likely that mandatory labelling of allergens will be restricted to a core list of allergenic foods and will not cover all food intolerances.

Food Allergies

Food Allergies

Peanuts can leave you breathless. Cat dander can lead to itchy eyes, a stuffy nose, coughing and sneezing. And most of us have suffered through those seasonal allergies with horrible pollen counts. Learn more...

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