Watchdog slams inaccurate food labelling

Some food businesses are putting inaccurate labels on their products, limiting already restricted diets for people with allergies.

The Food Safety Authority (FSAI) report described the control of food allergens in some businesses as “insufficient” to protect public health.

The audit followed a survey published in June 2011 that showed 94% of precautionary food allergy labels were unreliable.

The survey had showed only 6% and 3% of foods carrying precautionary labels actually contained egg and soya, respectively.

FSAI chief executive Alan Reilly said it was unacceptable for food businesses to use labels such as “may contain nuts” in place of adequate production controls.

“This defensive action to use precautionary labels where a very low risk or none exists can result in the unnecessary elimination of healthy dietary options for food allergy sufferers, who could then be more likely to take risks with foods carrying these labels.”

He said a significant proportion of the Irish people must take “extraordinary precautions” to avoid certain food allergens.

“While zero risk is not feasible where food is concerned, the plight of people with a food intolerance can be alleviated to some extent by accurate food labelling, along with good manufacturing procedures.”

FSAI board member Pat O’Mahony said the authority must sit down with the food industry to see what could be established as “best practice”.

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