Food safety and quality

FAO and WHO tackle precautionary food allergen labelling


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) experts convened another successful meeting on food allergens. This was the final session of a three-part consultation on risk assessment of food allergens to help guide the future work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.  In previous meetings, the experts:

  •  achieved consensus on a recommended revision to the list of global priority allergens; and
  •  established threshold levels for these priority allergens in foods and reviewed available analytical capabilities for the monitoring of food allergens.

More information on these two previous meetings is available here and here 

The objective of this third meeting, led by Stefano Luccioli (chair) and Alice Lee (rapporteur), was to review and evaluate the evidence in support of precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) on pre-packaged foods. The expert committee affirmed that PAL should only be reserved for those situations where unintended allergen presence (UAP) cannot be avoided and should not make up for poor allergen management practices or production errors during food manufacturing.  

Furthermore, to be effective, PAL should only be used when the level of UAP, demonstrated through risk assessment, exceeds established risk-based threshold values for a particular food allergen.

To protect allergic consumers and to foster trust in PAL, additional recommendations made by the expert committee include that PAL be integrated into regulatory frameworks, that a single, clear and unambiguous statement be used and that PAL be supported by effective risk communication and education programmes.

For more information, please see the summary reports:

Part 3: Review and establish precautionary labelling in foods of the priority allergens 

Part 2: Review and establish threshold levels in foods of the priority allergens

Part 1: Review and validation of Codex priority allergen list through risk assessment

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