FAO-WHO experts committee tackle precautionary food allergen labeling

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) experts recently gathered for the final session of a three-part consultation on risk assessment of food allergens to offer advice to the Codex Alimentarius Commission and help its future work.  

During the previous meetings, the experts recommended a revision of the list of global priority allergens and defined threshold amounts of these allergens. In addition, the committee also reviewed the information about currently available diagnostic tests to detect allergens in food.  

The final meeting, held in October 2021, focused on how to use precautionary allergen labeling (PAL) on pre-packaged foods to inform the consumer about the substances contained in a product that may cause an allergic reaction.

The committee declared that PAL should only be used in those situations where unintended allergen presence (UAP) cannot be avoided. To be effective, PAL should only be used when it is demonstrated, through risk assessment, that the level of UAP is higher than the established risk-based threshold value for that specific food allergen.  

Moreover, the experts unanimously agreed that PAL is not intended to make up for poor allergen management practices or production errors during food manufacturing.      

The committee also suggested that PAL should be integrated into regulatory frameworks and that effective risk communication and education programmes should be organized to protect even more allergic consumers and to build up trust in PAL.