SHOPPERS and diners will soon be able to tell at a glance if the food they are buying contains allergens that could cause a bad or, possibly, fatal reaction.
A new law coming in to force on July 1 stipulates that restaurants, supermarkets and food shops will have to highlight the presence of certain allergens such as gluten, egg, nuts or fish in their foods.
The aim is to give buyers with allergies or food intolerances a better guide to possible risks in pre-packed or pre-prepared products.
Commerce Minister Carole Delga said that “consumers could choose the foods that they want and, depending on what they contain, reject those that do not match their diet”.
Food packaging must include mention of gluten, milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, prawns, fish (excluding fish gelatin), nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seeds, sulphites (above a certain concentration), lupin (usually as flour) and shellfish.
Restaurants must also highlight to customers – without the customer having to ask – the possible presence of allergenic substances in their products while traiteurs and charcutiers must have labels beside the affected foods. Restaurants should have a list of any allergens in the dishes they offer.
The law is based on a European regulation from 2011 and shops and restaurants have had since December 2014 to prepare for the start of the new law.
It comes against a background of rising allergies, especially among children, with food safety agency Anses saying that 8.6% of serious allergic attacks relate to hidden allergens in everyday foods, particularly due to a lack of proper labelling of the risks.
Symptoms of a food allergy may come on very quickly and range from mild nettle-rash type itching to more serious symptoms such as swelling in the face, throat or mouth with difficulty in breathing, stomach pain or vomiting.
In severe cases the blood pressure falls dramatically in anaphylactic shock and this may lead to unconsciousness. Known sufferers of severe allergies may be issued with an adrenaline pen injector to help.
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