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Identifying allergens accurately

There are strict rules about listing and providing information about food allergens if they are an ingredient, additive or processing aid in the food which include:

  • Listing the most common food allergens on food labels
  • Listing ingredients on food labels
  • Providing information about the most common food allergens to consumers if the food is not required to be labelled.
     

These rules are strict because allergic consumers:

  1. can suffer a severe allergic reaction which may cause death if they eat foods containing the allergen they are allergic to, and  
  2. rely on food labels or information provided to them by staff working for a food business, to check that the food they buy is safe for them to eat.

To protect allergic consumers and to comply with the rules, food businesses must make sure that ingredients and common allergens are correctly and accurately listed on the labels of food they supply.

This includes correctly listing ingredients and allergens in documents supplied to commercial customers such as product information forms (PIFs).

There are also rules for unpackaged food and food that does not require a label, and for food sold in a retail service setting such as a cafe or restaurant.

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Allergen names

Required names listed in Schedule 9 of the Food Standards Code must 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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  • Ingredients can change. Every time you use a product or change a brand check the ingredient list.  
  • Check with your supplier if you’re not sure.
  • Be aware of different names for some allergens. For example, casein is derived from milk and therefore contains a milk allergen. Tahini contains a sesame allergen.
  • Consider ‘may contain’ or ‘may be present’ statements. See below for more about this.
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Businesses use precautionary allergen labels (e.g. ‘May contain ’ or ‘may be present’ or ‘Made in a factory that also processes …’) to warn allergic consumers of this risk.

For example, a breakfast cereal that does not contain soy as an ingredient, may occasionally contain soy because it is made in the same processing facility that makes cakes using soy powder.

In this instance, it is appropriate to use the ‘may contains’ statement for ‘soy’ for the breakfast cereal as although soy has not been added as an ingredient and is not in the ingredient list, it could be present.

The labelling is precautionary, as soy may or may not be present, and could cause an allergic reaction.

Visit Industry guidance resources and Precautionary allergen labelling guidance for industry below for more information.

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The Allergen Bureau provides industry guidance resources to help with food allergen management, labelling, identifying potential allergens in your product, and determining whether and how they should be declared.

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.

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The Allergen Bureau’s VITAL® (Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling) Program is a standardised allergen risk assessment process for the food industry for precautionary allergen labelling.

For more information