Allergen information for food businesses
Food businesses responsibilities to declare and manage allergens. Includes information on common allergens
Food allergies and food intolerance's can be unpleasant, complicated and can cause death. However, food allergies and intolerance can be managed, to improve quality of life. Below is more information on managing food allergies and intolerance, especially when food shopping or eating out.
The majority of recalls in Australia are due to undeclared allergens in packaged foods. Visit the FSANZ recall page for up to date information.
SA Health is responsible for ensuring that packaged foods containing undeclared allergens are removed promptly from the marketplace in South Australia. Information of what to do if you think a packaged product has an undeclared allergen is provided below.
The difference between food allergy and intolerance:
A food allergy causes the immune system to react to a particular food with immediate symptoms, such as itchiness, rash and swelling. Sometimes a reaction can be so severe that it can trigger a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.
A severe food allergy can cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis affects the whole body, often within minutes of eating the food. Symptoms such as rapid spreading of hives, swelling of the face, tongue and throat, difficulty breathing, wheezing, vomiting and loss of consciousness are common signs of an anaphylactic attack.
Immediate treatment with injected adrenaline can be lifesaving.
If you have been prescribed an adrenaline/epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen®), keep it with you at all times.
Food intolerance doesn’t involve the immune system. Food intolerance is an adverse reaction to a particular food. The symptoms can be unpleasant and in some cases severe, but are generally not life-threatening.
Coeliac disease is a disorder of the small bowel caused by an immune reaction to dietary gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye). It is not a food allergy but an auto-immune disease. In coeliac disease, the lining of the bowel is damaged by the white blood cells of the immune system and not by antibodies (as in food allergic reactions).
If you think you have a food allergy or intolerance, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis from a qualified medical practitioner.
In an emergency, follow the instructions on the ASCIA action plan for anaphylaxis (available on the Allergy & Anaphylaxis website) & seek immediate medical attention.
If you have a food allergy or intolerance or shop for someone who does, it’s important to check the label on any pre-packed food you buy.
The Food Standards Code requires that certain allergenic ingredients must be declared on the label – even when if they are a small part of another ingredient or processing aid:
These allergens are not always easy to find on labels. Other words may also refer to the allergen, eg.a milk product may be referred to as casein.
Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia, in association with the NSW Food Authority and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), has produced allergen ingredient cards that list ingredients you should avoid if you are allergic to milk, peanuts, eggs, fish, tree nuts, sesame, soybean, crustacea or lupin.
To order your free copies of these cards call Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia on 1300 728 000.
NOTE: Edible insects are an emerging food trend – The presence of chitin may have an effect on people who are sensitive to shellfish products. See Allergen Bureau's media release for more information.
There are 3 ways you might see allergens declared in ingredients lists:
Always check the ingredients list carefully. All ingredients must be listed on the labels of pre-packaged foods.
Some food labels may also have a warning to show the food product may contain foods people are commonly allergic to, eg.‘may contain traces of nuts’ or ‘may contain seeds’. This means that even if nuts or seeds aren’t deliberately included as ingredients in the food, the manufacturer cannot be sure the food doesn’t accidentally contain small amounts of the allergen.
If you are allergic to any of the foods mentioned in ‘May contain’ warnings, you should avoid these food products.
Tip: You can call food manufacturers and ask about ingredients or manufacturing processes if unsure about a product.
If you think a food has been incorrectly labelled, or an allergen has not been properly declared on packaged food, email us on Healthfood@sa.gov.au
Please provide the following information:
SA Health has powers under the Food Act and the Food Standards Code to investigate labelling complaints and take action against food businesses breaking the law.
Consumers are legally entitled to ask for information about the allergen content of foods for sale that are not pre-packed or labelled.
If you have a severe food allergy, you should always disclose your allergy clearly, ask about ingredients and never make presumptions about food content. You should always have your emergency medication with you.
Foods that aren’t pre-packed or labelled include those sold from:
It’s possible that this type of food could contain small amounts of allergens in the ingredients. The allergen may have also been introduced to these products due to contact with another food, knife or spoon, or from being wrapped in a bag that has touched another food containing an allergen.
Unlabelled food also includes meals served in:
Eating a meal from a restaurant, café or takeaway can be a stressful experience if you have a food allergy or intolerance. When food is prepared by someone else you can’t be absolutely sure that it won’t contain allergens. There are however some guidelines to make eating out safer and more simple.
If you have been prescribed an adrenaline/epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen®) and you don’t have it with you, DO NOT EAT! Studies have shown prompt administration of your adrenaline autoinjector is first line first aid treatment for anaphylaxis.
Acknowledgments to NSWFA and Anaphylaxis Australia for the information provided on this page.
Email Healthfood@sa.gov.au or contact the local council where there business is situated.