Europe's allergic consumers want to understand what is behind precautionary labeling for allergens

A study conducted by Audrey Dunn Galvin (United Kingdom) looked at perceptions, trust and consumer demand regarding "may contain" labeling.


A research team has developed an online questionnaire for people with allergies and / or allergic children in their care to better describe their expectations and their confidence in precautionary labeling. Precautionary labeling is a message such as "may contain allergen" or "has been manufactured in a factory that uses allergen". This message allows allergic consumers to know that the product can potentially cause an allergic reaction.

The study showed that respondents place little reliance on preventive labeling, possibly due to overuse of the latter.

Respondents also indicated that they would like to see a message that indicates that the plant that manufactures the product has undertaken a quantitative risk assessment. The following message: "this product has undergone a risk assessment and there is a risk of allergic reaction (ie "it is not safe to consume")" was well received as was the similar message: "This product has undergone a risk assessment and there is risk of allergic reaction (i.e. "safe to consume")". The results suggest that such an industry approach and mandatory labeling would make allergic consumers feel more protected and less anxious. In addition, it would bring more convinience, choice and understanding when making decisions on whether they should buy a product.

Another key point is the need expressed for better communication of risk assessment to consumers and on how and why (by what steps, means, processes) the agribusiness company decided to put a precautionary labeling. This communication should be made, according to survey respondents, by physicians and allergists.