‘May Contain’ Allergen Statements: Facilitating or Frustrating Consumers?

Soon, Jan Mei orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0488-1434 and Manning, Louise (2017) ‘May Contain’ Allergen Statements: Facilitating or Frustrating Consumers? Journal of Consumer Policy, 40 (4). pp. 447-472. ISSN 0168-7034

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10603-017-9358-8


As a result of mandatory labelling legislation, major food allergens that commonly cause allergic reactions are declared on packaging. The usage of precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) on packaging is not regulated in all countries and the food industry uses various forms of ‘may contain’ labelling which firstly is often inconsistent and secondly over time may diminish the value of such advisory statements. Hence the aim of this paper is to review the current industry usage of PAL and to provide recommendations on future use that are of value to academic, policy makers, food industry and consumers. A case study example is used to illustrate the likely costs and benefits of improving the current PAL status by considering a ‘peanut-free’ product and calculation using the Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling (VITAL) calculator. Governance such as addressing the inconsistent usage of PALs, promoting the harmonisation of language used in PALs, and improving PAL status to quantified PAL statements would be helpful to communicate risks to consumers so they can make informed choices when purchasing food products.

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