Page last updated: July 2022
A food allergy occurs when a person's immune system reacts to certain food and ingredients and can cause allergic reactions including anaphylaxis. Other immune reactions can also occur in response to food, such as in Coeliac disease. Substances such as sulphites can also cause adverse health reactions for some people with asthma. This is why the Food Standards Code requires certain food and substances to be declared when they are present in a food as ingredients including food additives or processing aids.
New requirements for declaring allergens
On 25 February 2021 the Food Standards Code was changed to introduce new requirements for allergen labelling as set out in Standard 1.2.3 and Schedule 9.
These changes will help people find allergen information on food labels more quickly and easily and allow them to make safe food choices.
Food businesses have until 25 February 2024 to transition to the new requirements. During this transition period, food businesses can comply with either the existing or new allergen declaration requirements. If a food is packaged and labelled before 25 February 2024 and it complies with the existing allergen declaration requirements, then the food can be sold for up to two years (i.e. until 25 February 2026).
What has changed?
What must be declared
The Food Standards Code now requires food and ingredients to be declared using certain required names, which are listed in Table 1 below. The change also means individual tree nuts, molluscs and individual cereals must all be declared separately.
Table 1: Foods and ingredients to be declared (using these names)
soy, soya, soybean
* Barley, oats and rye must be declared if they contain gluten.
** Sulphites must be declared when added in amounts equal to or more than 10 milligrams per kilogram of food.
How must declarations be made
Declarations must be made in:
- the statement of ingredients using bold font and a font size no smaller than that used for other listed ingredients (e.g. maltodextrin (wheat), milk powder), and
- a separate allergen summary statement in bold font beginning with the word 'contains' (e.g. Contains milk) located in the same field of view and directly next to the statement of ingredients.
Foods not required to display a statement of ingredients must still provide declarations elsewhere on the label (such as in a summary statement) using the required names.
For food not required to bear a label (such as food provided at a café or takeaway), declarations must be displayed in connection with the food or provided to the purchaser upon request using the required names.
Cereals containing gluten
As wheat (and its hybrids such as triticale) can cause allergic reactions it must be declared using the required name 'wheat' in the statement of ingredients and the summary statement.
If gluten is present in the wheat, the name 'gluten' must also be included in the summary statement.
Barley, oats and rye
If a food contains barley, oats or rye (or their hybrids) and contains gluten, then the required name of the cereal must be declared in the statement of ingredients and 'gluten' in the summary statement.
Barley, oats or rye are not required to be declared if they are present in a form that does not contain gluten.
Some food can be manufactured in a way that makes it safe to be eaten by people with allergies and does not need to have allergens declared. The Code includes exemptions from allergen labelling for these foods. More information is available on product exemptions from allergen labelling.
Declaring bee products
Bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly, and foods containing these bee products must be labelled with either a warning or advisory statement (see warning and advisory statements for more details on these statements).
'Precautionary allergen labelling
The use of voluntary precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) statements such as 'may contain' or 'may be present' are not regulated by the Food Standards Code.
Further information about PAL can be found on the Allergen Bureau website.
Information for the food industry on allergen labelling (including the new requirements) and the management of allergen cross-contact is available from the links below:
More general information relating to allergens can be found on the following pages:
The following not-for-profit organisations provide information on food allergies: