Food allergy appears to be on the rise with the current mainstay of treatment centred on allergen avoidance. Mandatory allergen labelling has improved the safety of food for allergic consumers. However an additional form of voluntary labelling (termed precautionary allergen labelling) has evolved on a wide range of packaged goods, in a bid by manufacturers to minimise risk to customers, and the negative impact on business that might result from exposure to trace amounts of food allergen present during cross-contamination during production. This has resulted in near ubiquitous utilisation of a multitude of different precautionary allergen labels with subsequent confusion amongst many consumers as to their significance. The global nature of food production and manufacturing makes harmonisation of allergen labelling regulations across the world a matter of increasing importance. Addressing inconsistencies across countries with regards to labelling legislation, as well as improvement or even banning of precautionary allergy labelling are both likely to be significant steps forward in improved food safety for allergic families. This article outlines the current status of allergen labelling legislation around the world and reviews the value of current existing precautionary allergen labelling for the allergic consumer. We strongly urge for an international framework to be considered to help roadmap a solution to the weaknesses of the current systems, and discuss the role of legislation in facilitating this.
Keywords: Allergen avoidance; Allergen labelling; Anaphylaxis; Food allergy; Legislation; Mandatory labelling; Precationary allergen labelling.