Fact Sheet - Food Allergen Labelling

Fact Sheet - Food Allergen Labelling

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Food allergy is very serious, causing illness and even death. Food allergies occur in around 1 in 20 children and 1 in 50 adults. Food ingredient labelling and declaration of allergens on packaged products is an important way people with food allergies can manage and avoid a potentially life threatening allergic reaction.

Even very small amounts of an allergen in food can trigger a reaction. The most common allergens, responsible for 90% of allergic reactions are:

  • Peanuts
  • Milk
  • Egg
  • Tree nuts
  • Crustaceans (shellfish)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Wheat
  • Lupin
  • Fish

Information about added sulphites (in amounts greater than 10mg/Kg) and cereals containing gluten must also be listed on the label or made known to the customer.

Consumers have a legal right to receive written or verbal information on allergen content when buying packaged food.  This is a requirement of the Food Act 2003 and the Food Standards Code (the Code).  Penalties for falsely describing food which causes harm to a person may result in large fines or a jail term of up to two years.

All food businesses engaged in wholesale supply, manufacture or importation of food must have a system in place to ensure the recall of unsafe food [Standard 3.2.2-12]

Food businesses must train their staff and have a plan to manage and communicate food allergens in their products, including the unintentional presence of allergens.

Packaged food

A business must meet the labelling requirements for allergens set out in Standard 1.2.3 (Warning Statements, Advisory Statements and Declarations) of the Code.

  • “Contains” means the product contains the ingredient and is intended as an ingredient.
  • “May contain” means that during harvest, storage or manufacture, the product may have been unintentionally cross contaminated with an allergen and the product may be a risk to the allergic consumer.
  • “Allergen ingredient free” labelling claims for “free” may only be made where a food contains no detectable trace, for example, “Gluten Free” or “Dairy Free” [Standard 1.2.8].

There are different ways allergens may be declared on a food package label:

  • In brackets: wheat flour (contains wheat and gluten), sugar, butter (contains milk), salt, flavour (contains wheat starch). May contain traces of nuts.
  • In bold: wheat flour (contains wheat and gluten), sugar, butter (contains milk), salt, flavour (contains wheat starch). May contain traces of nuts.
  • In a separate declaration: for example, Ingredients: wheat flour, sugar, butter, salt, flavour.  Allergen warning: wheat, gluten and milk. May contain traces of nuts.

Food on display for sale

Food on display for sale must show allergen information:

  • On or in connection with the display of food; or
  • By providing information about food allergens in the food if asked by a customer.

Imported food

Importers must provide clear and accurate labels which comply with Australian law.  They are legally responsible for the safety and correct labelling of the food sold.

For more information

April 2019