Many consumers view precautionary allergen labeling as inconsistent and nontransparent, according to a review published in Allergy.
“For consumers with food allergies, there has been a loss of credibility, trust and ability to facilitate an informed choice in regard to [precautionary allergen labeling],” Audrey DunnGalvin, PhD, a lecturer in the school of applied psychology at the University College Cork in Ireland, and colleagues wrote. “This has important negative impacts giving rise to poor confidence in coping, low perception of control, reduced observance of avoidance strategies, reduced quality of life and increased risk by consumers who learn to disregard [precautionary allergen labeling].”
DunnGalvin and other groups of clinicians, dietitians, patient groups, psychologists, food scientists, industry representatives, auditors and regulators conducted a review and summarized the perspectives of the key stakeholders to define common health protection and risk minimization goals in precautionary allergen labeling (PAL).
Each group agreed that PALs, as currently constructed, are counterproductive for consumers with food allergies. As this consumer mistrust in PALs increases, the general population is likely to reduce avoidance, have a reduced quality of life and increase risk-taking, the investigators said.
The groups agreed on perspectives for how to better utilize PALs. Those ideas included:
- clear indications that a product has undergone an adequate risk assessment and is unlikely to pose a risk for a consumer with a food allergy;
- the application of the labeling should be evidence-based;
- quantitative risk assessment should be expanded to make PAL more transparent, consistent and meaningful; and
- internationally agreed upon reference doses, derived from the distribution of individual allergens, to determine action levels below which PAL is not required.
DunnGalvin and the other groups also stressed the importance of consumer education regarding the proper utilization of PAL.
“We need to develop better ways of educating consumers with food allergy to undertake individualized risk assessment in the light of correctly applied PALs and assess how this impacts on their quality of life.” – by Ryan McDonald
Disclosure: DunnGalvin reports being a co-investigator in the Odense Research Centre for Anaphylaxis (ORCA) project and reports being a consultant for the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program. Please see the full study for a list of all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.