International trade

The progressive development of international trade is leading to an increasing number of products sold with multilingual labels produced in one, or perhaps two 'European' factories for sale in several countries simultaneously. This situation is no longer confined to large multinational manufacturers but also applies increasingly to major retailers who, in some cases, are now selling products with European labels. This creates a number of problems from a labelling stance. Firstly, where two factories produce the same product there may be a difference in the other products manufactured at both sites and consequently a potential difference in the allergens that could be transferred by cross-contamination. It is essential that the 'worst case' scenario is alluded to on the label. For instance, where manufacture is split between two sites and one line also produces nut-containing products where there is a real risk of cross-contamination, this should be alluded to on the labels of both. This ensures consistency of labelling and removes any risk of confusion or any inadvertent consumption of a product that may initiate an anaphylactic reaction. Secondly, it is known that awareness of, and sensitivities to, different allergens do vary throughout Europe. The voluntary labelling of particular allergens is specific to some countries, whilst for others this additional labelling is not deemed as important in their country. Potentially, the presence of an allergen could be mentioned in one language but not in another, and this is an issue that individual companies need to address. However, by far the majority of products sold in a given country provide the ingredients information in one language. Nevertheless, this raises a further issue that companies need to address. Imported products need to conform to the legislation and the voluntary labelling actions taken in the receiving country that sells the product, which may differ from that in the manufacturing country. This will ensure that consumers have information they need to select products for their diet and can choose products from a given company with confidence.

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