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Food allergen rules

All food businesses are responsible for managing the presence of allergens in food and must follow rules set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

The rules are strict because allergic consumers:

  • Can suffer a severe allergic reaction which may cause death, and  
  • Rely on food labels and information provided by retailers and suppliers to check whether a food is safe for them to eat

Food businesses must:

  • Declare allergens on the label, or
  • Display allergen information next to food that does not require a label, or
  • Provide allergen information if requested by a customer

It is a serious offence if:

  • Allergen information is not on a label
  • A consumer is not given allergen information when they ask for it
  • An allergen is found in a food that was specifically requested not to contain that allergen
  • Incorrect allergen information is provided
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What is an allergen declaration?

An allergen declaration is how a food business tells allergic customers that an allergen is present in a food. A food business must follow the rules when declaring allergens.

What allergens need to be declared?

Only the most common allergens need to be declared. These allergens are listed in the table below and are from Schedule 9 of the Food Standards Code.

Note: it is important to also make sure ingredient information is accurate. See Identifying allergens accurately for more about this.

What allergen names can be used?

Only the 'required names' listed in Schedule 9 of the Food Standards Code can be used for declarations.

In the ingredient list 

In the summary statement  

Additional information 

sulphites 

sulphites 

Added sulphites in concentrations of 10 mg/kg or more 

barley 

gluten 

Includes hybridised strains  

oats 

gluten 

Includes hybridised strains  

rye 

gluten 

Includes hybridised strains  

wheat 

wheat; and 

gluten if it is present 

Includes hybridised strains

almond 

almond 

 

Brazil nut 

Brazil nut 

 

cashew 

cashew 

 

hazelnut 

hazelnut 

 

macadamia 

macadamia 

 

pecan 

pecan 

 

pine nut 

pine nut 

 

pistachio 

pistachio 

 

walnut 

walnut 

 

crustacean 

crustacean 

 

egg 

egg 

 

fish 

fish 

 

lupin 

lupin 

 

milk 

milk 

Includes all milk produced by animals 

mollusc 

mollusc 

 

peanut 

peanut 

 

sesame 

sesame 

 

soy, soya or soybean 

soy 

 

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The most common allergens listed in the table above must be declared if they are used as an ingredient, additive or processing aid, no matter how small the amount, with some exemptions. (For example, added sulphites in concentrations of less than 10 mg/kg do not need to be declared).

This includes any allergens present in compound ingredients, such as some sauces or dried fruit.
 

How is an allergen declaration made?

How an allergen is declared will depend on whether the food is packaged, unpackaged or provided in a retail food service setting.

 

1. Packaged food that requires a label 

If a food is packaged and has to be labelled, the allergen declaration is made by listing allergen information on the product label.

Location and format

Allergen declarations must appear in the ingredient list and in a co-located summary statement.

In the ingredient list and summary statement, allergen declarations must be in:

  • bold font that contrasts distinctly with other text; and
  • the same size or greater type

In the summary statement, allergen declarations must say:

  • Contains: (name of allergen/s)

 

2. Food that doesn’t require a label 

Where a food is unpackaged or doesn’t require a label, allergen information must be displayed in connection with the display of the food or provided to the customer on request. 

 

3. Retail food service 

In a food retail setting such as a restaurant or café, food allergens must be declared if a customer asks for this information. 

The declaration must be made no matter how small the amount, with some exceptions. (For example, added sulphites in concentrations of less than 10 mg/kg do not need to be declared).

Visit Education and training for the food service industry on our Allergies and intolerances page for more information.

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Food businesses must make sure that the labels on the food they supply correctly list ingredients and the most common allergens.

This includes correctly listing ingredients and allergens in documents supplied with the food such as product information forms (PIFs).

Visit Identifying allergens accurately for more information.

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Food 

Exemptions 

barley 

oats 

rye 

present in beer or spirits 

wheat 

  • present in beer or spirits; 

  • glucose syrups made from wheat starch and that:

    • have been subject to a refining process that has removed gluten protein content to the lowest level that is reasonably achievable; and

    • have a gluten protein content that does not exceed 20 mg/kg 

  • alcohol distilled from wheat 

fish 

Isinglass derived from fish swim bladders and used as a clarifying agent in beer or wine 

milk 

Alcohol distilled from whey 

soybean 

  • soybean oil that has been degummed, neutralised, bleached and deodorised 

  • soybean derivatives that are tocopherol or phytosterol 

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There are no changes to precautionary allergen labelling such as ‘May contain’ statements.

However, it is recommended that food businesses consider the benefit to consumers of consistency with the changes to allergen labelling when making these statements.

View Allergen names and declaration above to see the changes.

Visit the Allergen Bureau website for more information about precautionary allergen labelling for industry.

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Food service retailers

Food service retailers such as cafés, restaurants and pubs, are legally required to provide information on allergens that may be present in food if requested by a customer.

This includes providing allergen information for packaged or unpackaged food made and sold on the premises.

If the food requires a label, the declaration must be: 

  • On the label  

If the food does not require a label, the declaration must be:

  • On display next to the food, or 
  • Provided to a customer on request 

Important strategies that businesses can use to manage allergy risks include:

  • Implement an effective allergen management plan
  • Train front-of-house and back-of-house staff in food allergen risks, management and communication
  • Use a system to provide clear and accurate allergen information
  • Manage the unintentional presence of food allergens

Resources, including templates that you can use to create recipes, chart allergens and safely substitute ingredients are available on the All about Allergens resource hub.

Visit Allergies and intolerances for more information.

Food manufacturers

Food manufacturers are legally required to provide information on allergens that may be present in the food they supply.

This includes providing allergen information for packaged or unpackaged food. The declaration must be: 

  • On the label if the food requires a label, or 
  • Provided to a customer on request if the food does not require a label

Important strategies that food manufacturers can use to manage allergy risks include:

  • Implement an effective allergen management plan
  • Train all staff in food allergen risks, management and communication
  • Use a system to provide clear and accurate information
  • Manage the unintentional presence of food allergens

Visit Identifying allergens accurately for more information.

Food importers

Food importers are responsible for ensuring imported food is properly labelled and providing clear and accurate allergen information about their products.

Food importers must:

  • Use a system to provide clear and accurate allergen information
  • Ensure their imports are properly labelled.
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New rules for labelling the most common allergens in food commenced on 25 February 2021.

The Plain English Allergen Labelling (PEAL) changes to the Food Standards Code will help people find allergen information on food labels more quickly and easily so they can make informed and safe food choices.

The changes include: 

  • using consistent names that are simple, plain English and in bold font  
  • displaying declarations in a specific format and location on food labels  

Food businesses have 3 years to transition to the new requirements, plus an additional 2 years for food that has been correctly labelled before 25 February 2024.

During the 3 year transition, allergen declarations must follow the old or the new system. They cannot be a combination of both.

We encourage food businesses to start following the Plain English Allergen Labelling (PEAL) rules. The information on this page follows these rules.