By Lauren Solar
Food allergen risk management and accurate labelling have been interrelated issues since ingredient listings were first legislated, back in the 1970’s. Studies show that undeclared food allergens are the most common cause of food recalls; in one US review from 2019, 44% were attributed. To address this issue, the ‘may contain’ statement, or precautionary allergen label, was created.
While this seems straight-forward, experience has proven that the “may contain” statements are not always used correctly. Some products tested contain large enough amounts that the allergen should be included in the main ingredient list. Others carry precautionary labels for allergens that were not present at all. Because of this, some consumers risk a serious allergic reaction because they disregard these labels, perceiving them as a liability measure, to minimize the manufacturer’s legal risk. Other consumers avoid foods they could safely eat, unnecessarily limiting their food choices.