When shopping for a child with food allergies it is important that you are able to read and understand food labels. Ingredient lists and allergen warning statements are the key to working out if the food is suitable for your little one.
Food labeling laws in Australia require that the eight most common food allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, sesame seeds, fish, wheat, soy and shellfish) are declared on the food label1. These food allergens must be listed on the label if they are included as an ingredient, an additive or compound, or in the processing of the food1. The allergen needs to be listed on the label, regardless of how small the amount is in the food. See the diagram below for an example of how an ingredient list and allergen warning statement will usually look on a food label.
Ingredient lists and allergen warning statements are not always easy to find on food labels so make sure you look carefully. Also, you must check the labels of all manufactured foods each time before you purchase it2. Sometimes the ingredients of foods can change without warning.
Keep in mind that is it not mandatory to include ‘may contain’ statements about cross contamination on food labels3. If you are concerned about cross contamination, check with the manufacturer.
Be extra careful with imported foods. All imported foods in Australia must comply with the same rules as locally made products, however mistakes with translations have been known to occur3. Not all countries have the same strict food labelling requirements as Australia, so there is greater risk with imported foods3.
A number of foods are now manufactured to be ‘free from’ specific allergens, such as gluten free or dairy free3. Don’t rely on this message, however, as it is still important to check the allergen warning statement and the ‘may contain’ statement on the food label.
- 2016. Allergen Labelling. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand. Viewed 21 July 2016. http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/foodallergies/Pages/Allergen-labelling.aspx
- 2014. Dietary Avoidance- General Information. Australasian Society of Allergy and Immunology. Viewed 21 July 2016. http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-allergy/ascia-dietary-avoidance-for-food-allergy
- Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia. 2016. Food Labelling. Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia. Viewed 21 July 2016 https://www.allergyfacts.org.au/living-with-the-risk/the-basics/food-labelling