Some foods and food ingredients or their components can cause severe allergic reactions including anaphylaxis.
Most food allergies are caused by peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sesame seeds, fish and shellfish, soy and wheat, and these must be declared on the food label however small the amount added. Sources of gluten, also an allergen, need to be declared on the label so people with Coeliac Disease or wheat allergy can identify these products. Sulphite preservatives must also be declared on the label if added at 10 (or more) milligrams per kilogram of food..
A food must have a warning statement when people may be unaware of a severe health risk posed by an allergen. Only food containing the bee product royal jelly is required to have a warning statement. This is because royal jelly has been reported to cause severe allergic reactions and, in rare cases, fatalities, especially in asthma and allergy sufferers.
Some food labels say ‘may contain’ certain allergens, such as ‘may contain nuts’. This is because the manufacturer is concerned that traces of nuts might be present in the food unintentionally, if, for example, the food is prepared on the same equipment as products that contain nuts. Allergy consumer support groups are working with industry to make these labels more helpful to allergy sufferers.
Lupin is a legume related to peanuts and soy that is increasingly valued as a nutritious food. Lupin and lupin products have been used in Europe for many years and recently in Australia. In 2004 the Medical Journal of Australia reported three cases of allergic reactions after eating products containing lupin. FSANZ is gathering information on lupin allergy in Australia to be considered in consultation with allergy experts.
Other names for major allergens
Sometimes ingredients derived from known allergenic foods are not clearly identified in the ingredients list, for example soy might be listed as ‘textured vegetable protein’. Allergy consumer groups are working with the food industry on industry guidelines to provide more meaningful information in plain English.