Given increasing consumer sensitisation vis-à-vis food allergens, the (European) legislature has reacted with more labelling regulations for numerous ingredients in pre-packed foods. This should help consumers, in particular allergy sufferers, to have easier access to information on food ingredients with allergy potential.
New Allergy Information
The EU Consumer Information Regulation No. 1169/2011 (LMIV) on the provision of food information to consumers introduced EU-wide reforms, also for allergen labelling on food products. Up to now, only pre-packed foods had to show information on allergen substances in the list of ingredients. Information on allergenic ingredients has also to have been provided for non pre-packed food since 13th December 2014.
The national, legal basis for this is the Austrian Allergen Information Regulation, Federal Law Gazette II No. 175/2014. It states that the information may be provided in the form of signs, notices, price lists, menus or menu plans, or verbally. Verbal information may only be provided by trained individuals; in this case, guests must be notified via a noticeboard or sign that information on allergens will be provided by staff members upon request. Clear and understandable documentation must be available at the respective Business.
FAQs on the Allergen Information Regulation can be found on the homepage of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Health. Three guidelines on allergen information on “non pre-packed foods” were developed as part of the Austrian Food Code.
The allergen labelling regulations only include ingredients. Ingredients are components that have been added to foods intentionally. The labelling regulations do not include such traces of allergens that could have got into the end-product accidentally and by “technically unavoidable” processes -- so-called cross-contact or cross-contamination such as traces of nuts in milk chocolate, if chocolate containing nuts was produced in a prior batch. Such traces are subject to the manufacturer’s liability and due diligence obligation, as they could still pose a health risk to people suffering from allergies. Omitting information on traces of allergenic ingredients on labels could cause damage to the health of sensitive consumers, which could not only have considerably negative effects on individuals affected up to the level of anaphylactic shocks, but also lead to legal consequences in terms of product liability for manufacturers. In the event of damage, the manufacturer could be accused of not having undertaken all the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent damage to consumers.
It is recommended to buy foods manufactured under specific conditions or dietary foods (e.g. gluten-free products) and to examine the label (list of ingredients) very carefully should a particularly sensitive person have to avoid specific allergens under any or all circumstances. If in doubt, it is recommended to contact the manufacturer directly (consumer hotline).
The EU Food Information to Consumers Regulation provides the basis for the EU-wide labelling of substances that could cause allergies or intolerances. In essence, this means that the following substances listed in Appendix II must be listed in a highlighted form (Article 21) in the list of ingredients as soon as they are used as ingredients, even in the smallest amounts, in accordance with Article 9 para. 1 item 2.
14 Allergenic Substances (LMIV)
14 Allergenic Substances or Groups of Substances according to the "Food Information to Consumers Regulation"
- Grains containing gluten, namely wheat (such as spelt and Khorosan what), rye, barley, oats, spelt, Khorosan wheat, or their hybrids, as well as any products derived from them, except
a) Glucose syrup from a wheat basis including dextrose
b) Maltodextrins from a wheat basis
c) Glucose syrup from a barley basis
d) Grains used in the production of distillates or ethyl alcohol and other alcoholic Drinks
- Crustaceans and any derivative products
- Eggs and any derivative products
- Fish and any derivative products, except
a) Fish-based gelatine, used as carrier of vitamin or carotinoid preparations
b) Fish-based gelatine or isinglass, used in the clarification of wine and beer
- Peanuts and any derivative products
- Soybeans and any derivative products except
a) fully refined soybean oil and fat (1)
b) naturally mixed tocopherols (E306), natural D-α-tocopherol, natural D-α-tocopherol acetate, natural D-α-tocopherol succinate from soybean sources
c) phystosterins and phytosterin esters from plant-based soybean oil
d) phytostanol esters from plant oil sterines from soybean sources
- Milk and any derivative products (including lactose), except
a) Whey for distillates or ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin for spirits and other alcoholic beverages
- Edible nuts, i.e. almonds (amygdalus communis L.), hazelnuts (corylus avellana), walnuts (juglans regia), cashew nuts (anacardium occidentale), pecan nuts (carya illinoiesis (Wangenh.) K. Koch), Brazil nuts (bertholletia excelsa), pistachios (pistacia vera), Macadamia nuts and Queensland nuts (macadamia ternifolia), and any derivative products, except edible nuts used in the making of distillates or ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin for spirits and other alcoholic beverages
- Celery and celeriac and any derivative products
- Mustard and any derivative products
- Sesame seeds and any derivative products
- Sulphur dioxide and sulphites in concentration levels of more than 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/ml, expressed as SO2
- Lupines and any derivative products
- Molluscs and any derivative products