The current method of accessing allergen information is inadequate
Data about allergens is currently held in several different databases, which cover allergens and allergenicity with varying degrees of completeness.
This can often lead to confusion and potential risks, and a lack of quality information. In the very worst cases, misinformation can lead to severe illness and even death.
We believe allergen sufferers must have full confidence in the allergen content of the products they purchase.
From October 1 2021, food business that sell food which is prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) will be required to produce a label with a full ingredients list with allergenic ingredients emphasised within it.
We are calling on the Government to:
Currently each wholesaler has to approach suppliers for this data, which is very time consuming for the wholesalers and suppliers alike.
When manufacturers reformulate the recipe of their products, information is not always accurately fed through the supply chain to the wholesaler. This is particularly dangerous if the ingredients are changed to include allergens, such as changing vegetable oil to rapeseed oil or including mustard seed in mayonnaise.
For example, if a café regularly buys mayonnaise from a wholesaler for use in their sandwiches, if the manufacturer changes the recipe to include mustard seed, there is no system to flag this to the café. The current system relies on the café owner manually checking the mayonnaise back of pack label or the database every time they are making up products, an unrealistic and unsafe expectation.
How the allergens database would work in practice
Manufacturers are currently legally obligated to provide information about the allergenic ingredients used in their products; however, the law does not specify where or how this information should be provided.
This is why we are calling on the Government to mandate manufacturers to place allergen data in an open source central repository.
This system would be straightforward and easy to implement because the infrastructure is already in place. Instead of having multiple competing databases asking for information, a central repository would act as a library accessible by any allergen solution.
There is no additional cost to implement this change. The centralised database would to be paid for by commercial entities for access to the data.
Instead of informing each wholesaler individually, manufacturers would only need to provide allergen information once, into a central repository. This repository could also be used to easily communicate product recalls and product reformulations through alerts.