As well as the ingredients list, which is a legal requirement, many food products have a statement or an allergy advice box on the label saying they contain a certain food, for example nuts, milk or eggs.
These boxes are not a legal requirement and so they may not be on a food label. It is not a good idea to rely on them as not all retailers use them. You should always read the ingredients list regardless of whether there is a “contains” box or statement.
Some food labels say things like 'may contain nuts’ or ‘not suitable for someone with a milk allergy'. This means that even though nuts or milk aren’t deliberately added to the food as an ingredient, the manufacturer can’t be sure that on some occasions the product doesn’t accidentally contain small amounts of them.
If you have an allergy to the food mentioned you should avoid these products. The FSA has recently produced guidelines for manufacturers to help them manage foods that cause allergies. The guidance sets out ways of reducing the chances of the foods causing allergies getting into food products accidentally. It also advises businesses on how to assess the risk of this accidental cross-contamination so that they can decide if they need to use an advisory warning or not.
If an advisory warning is appropriate, the guidance for food manufacturers also suggests phrases to use to explain the risk to someone who has a food allergy.
These phrases are:
- may contain X
- not suitable for someone with X allergy
If you think a food product has been labelled inaccurately or incorrectly, you should report this to the Environmental Health Department of your local council.