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03 September 2020
Food Allergy
PREVENT, - Food Safety

There are around 17 million people living with food allergies in Europe. Each one needs to constantly check the ingredients in the food they purchase and eat. Without easily accessible, clear and accurate labelling on food products, they are at serious risk of allergic reactions.

Food waste and food donations should respect labelling rules

The European Commission opened a consultation to better regulate food donations and food waste within the current EU food hygiene regulation. It is an important and welcomed initiative that EFA has taken part in, as stronger hygiene rules across the supply chain will reduce risks of cross-contamination, including in donated food.

The proposed regulation for food donations currently only refers to pre-packaged foods. Every person with food allergies needs to know the ingredients of the food they eat whether it was bought or donated. EFA calls on the European Commission to clarify whether the regulations also apply to non-packaged, donated food.

Allergen information should not be limited to large-scale operations, but must also include small productions, catering, and non-profits such as community-based or religious organisations. Wherever food is served, it must follow clear rules to avoid cross-contamination.

Increasing concern about cross-contamination and food allergies

The European Commission proposal includes the introduction of the “food safety culture” concept. EFA hopes this can become integrated into food hygiene practices across all forms of production and distribution.

While some countries provide guidelines, mandatory trainings for workers involved in food production across the EU would help create a culture of food safety. This would ensure that all staff are trained on allergen requirements and understand the care needed to minimise risks.

Trainings need to include: handling of equipment, transport/processing/storage of food, and dealing with a food allergy episode, as some examples of improving food safety culture.

Allergen labelling in other sectors

Another notable absence is the Regulation of Plant Protection Products (PPPs) and fertilisers, which can contain allergens. These products can remain as residues on plants later consumed by people with allergies, and cause a serious reaction. Cases have included the use of sulphites on strawberries for greenhouse mould, or milk-based biocides used to grow aubergine.

However, because they are authorised as pesticides they are classified as residues and not ingredients. This means that the allergens are not labelled, and has led to cases of allergic reactions because of a lack of information for consumers.

A sustainable food system for a sustainable planet

It is vital that people will allergies are able to access food without risk of an allergic reaction that could endanger their lives. By adopting appropriate safety measures and improving food safety, it also has the benefit of reducing food waste.

As part of the European Green Deal, the European Commission has envisioned the Farm to Fork Strategy to take action to prevent food waste across the EU. A sustainable food system in Europe would create food security against waste and cross-contamination, so people can live more healthily.

Read our full response to the consultation here and our recent Quality of Life for people with food allergies in Europe: a menu for improvement. More information in our Food Labelling website.