Allergen labelling saves lives
Some foods and food ingredients or their components can cause severe allergic reactions including anaphylaxis.
Most food allergies are caused by peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sesame seeds, fish, shellfish, soy, lupin and wheat. The Food Standards Code requires these foods to be declared on labels whenever they are present as ingredients or as components of food additives or processing aids.
A useful poster is also available. You can download a copy (PDF 418KB), or for a printed A2 version please email email@example.com.
If the food is not in a package or is not required to have a label (for example, food prepared at and sold from a takeaway shop), this information must either be displayed in connection with the food or provided to the purchaser if requested.
Royal jelly has been reported to cause severe allergic reactions and, in rare cases, fatalities, especially in asthma and allergy sufferers. Food containing the bee product royal jelly is required to have a warning statement. The same warning statement is required when royal jelly is sold as a complementary medicine.
Gluten-containing cereals need to be declared on the label so people with Coeliac Disease and cereal allergies can identify these products. Gluten-containing cereals include wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt and hybrid strains of these cereals (e.g. triticale).
The Food Standards Code also includes requirements for making 'gluten free' and 'low gluten' claims about food. For more information about these claim requirements, see Standard 1.2.7 – Nutrition, Health and Related Claims.
Sulphites must also be declared on the label if added at 10 (or more) milligrams per kilogram of food.
Complaints about suspected undeclared allergens in foods should be directed to your local food enforcement agency.
Product exemptions from allergen labelling
In 2016 the Food Standards Code was changed to remove mandatory allergen labelling requirements for some foods and ingredients derived from allergenic sources. These foods and ingredients have been assessed as safe, because they are processed in a way that makes them suitable for consumers who are allergic to wheat, soy or dairy.
Other exemptions also apply. Read about the product exemptions in detail.
Allergen labelling of aged bottled wine
Food allergens such as sulphites and derivatives of egg, fish, milk, and tree nuts may be used in the wine production process. While these substances are largely removed through filtration, very small residual amounts may be present in the final product.
People who suffer from adverse reactions to these food allergens should be aware that bottled wine (including sparkling wine and fortified wine) labelled with a vintage date of 2002 or earlier will not have these substances declared on the label. This is because before the Food Standards Code was introduced in 2002, manufacturers of wine were not required to include allergens on the label. These food allergens are required to be declared on the label of bottled wines labelled with a vintage date of 2003 or later, with the exception of isinglass (from fish) that is used as a clarifying agent.
'May contain' statements
Some food labels use 'may contain' or 'may be present' statements about certain allergens, such as 'may contain nuts'. These are voluntary statements made by food manufacturers and are not regulated by the Food Standards Code.
Guidance for the food industry about the use of these statements and the management of allergen cross-contamination can be found on the Australian Food and Grocery Council website.
Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia
Allergy New Zealand
Allergen labelling poster for food businesses