Labeling food products

Labeling of food products is the main and most direct channel of communication from the food producer to the consumer, including allergic patients and their peers, friends and families. Labels should contain information on all allergens that are added to the product as basis of the recipe, regardless of the amount. This gives in practice no real problems. However, cross contamination of allergens is another issue. There is no (legal) guidance on labelling cross contamination (see cross contamination). Every food producer sets its own criteria.

There are two basic requirements to be able to decide on labeling of cross contamination, one is sound risk assessment (see population risk assessment using probabilistic modelling) and second is risk policy, more specifically what risk of allergic reactions in the population (general or allergic patients) do you accept. It would be a great move forward if all parties involved would share the criteria and use one guideline on the labeling of cross contamination.

Food producers should be aware that the use of “may contain”-type disclaimers may NOT help them in a liability case. There is currently in the EU no precedent of a case, but generally legal counselors are of the opinion that food producers will have to show/prove that they have shown due diligence in preventing cross contamination.