Prevalence of allergen avoidance advisory statements on packaged processed foods in a supermarket

Jennifer J Koplin, Nicholas J Osborne and Katrina J Allen
Med J Aust 2010; 193 (7): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2010.tb03979.x
Published online: 4 October 2010

To the Editor: Allergen avoidance is the mainstay of food allergy management. Consumers with food allergies rely on accurate labelling of foods to avoid ingestion of allergens and subsequent allergic reactions. Current Australian legislation states that ingredients derived from common allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, wheat, cows milk, soy, fish, shellfish and sesame) must be clearly labelled.1 However, use of shared processing facilities can result in cross-contamination of other ingredients with these allergens. This has led to the use of advisory statements such as “may contain traces of” by manufacturers. A recent Food Standards Australia New Zealand survey found that consumers with food allergies are frustrated by such labelling.2 There is also confusion among the medical profession about whether to advise patients with food allergies to avoid all foods with allergen avoidance advisory statements. The perception by some in the general population and in the medical community is that these statements are so widely used that avoidance would be overly prohibitive. However, there are currently no published data on the extent of advisory labelling use in Australia.

  • 1 Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 2 Department of Allergy and Immunology, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, VIC.


  • 1. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Standard 1.2.3 — mandatory warning and advisory statements and declarations. Canberra: FSANZ, 2002. (accessed May 2010).
  • 2. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Quantitative consumer survey on allergen labelling: benchmark survey 2003. Final report. Canberra: FSANZ, 2004. (accessed May 2010).
  • 3. Hefle S, Furlong T, Niemann L, et al. Consumer attitudes and risks associated with packaged foods having advisory labelling regarding the presence of peanuts. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007; 120: 171-176.
  • 4. Pieretti MM, Chung D, Pacenza R, et al. Audit of manufactured products: use of allergen advisory labels and identification of labeling ambiguities. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2009; 124: 337-341.


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