For the study, around 1,000 people in Germany were surveyed about their eating and shopping habits. The report also reveals that the need for information is growing: in 2015, around 52 per cent of those surveyed were in favour of such labelling.
Around four per cent of the population in Germany are affected by food allergies. Some people experience life-threatening reactions upon exposure to even the smallest trace of an allergen. According to food regulations, allergens must appear on labels. However, mandatory labelling does not apply to traces of allergens. Such traces can end up in a product unintentionally if allergenic foods are processed in the same production facility. Many manufacturers specify that a food ‘may contain traces of x’ while others do not provide this information. In either case, allergens may or may not be present, so the information is useless to the consumer.
Interest groups are therefore demanding that the term ‘traces’ be completely eliminated and that consistent allergen information be provided. Many food manufacturers are opposed, claiming that allergen analyses are unreliable. The European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF) is therefore urging politicians to take action and invest in the improvement of allergen analysis, and also to create clear legal regulations for the labelling of traces of allergens. Furthermore, an efficient system for assessing the risk of contamination needs to be established.