Food labelling
  • Food 1

    Eating should be a pleasure, not a scary situation for food allergy patients

  • Food 2

    We need clear and accurate food labelling information

FoodLabellingFood is an essential for human life, and is the easiest way to maintain and improve our health condition. However, food allergy is not rare: 1 in 5 Europeans suffer from food reactions and 7 million Europeans, mostly under 25 years old, are allergic to some kind of food. Over the last decade, the number of allergic children younger than 5 with allergies has doubled and visits to emergency rooms due to anaphylaxis have increased seven-fold.

Food allergy appears when the immune system of a person fails to distinguish between dangerous and harmless foods. The body then releases histamine and other substances to fight the food ingested. Allergies may cause several symptoms, ranging from gastro-intestinal problems, eczemas, urticarias to airway obstructions and cardiovascular shocks. Reactions may arise within a few minutes of eating the food or be delayed by up to a couple of hours.

The prevention of food allergies

There is no cure for food allergies, the only protection is the abstention from the allergen causing the reaction. Consumers suffering from allergies must therefore be able to identify the ingredients they are sensitive to.

The European Union regulation on the provision of food information for consumers that entered into force in 2014 identifies a list of 14 allergens (eggs, milk, fish, crustaceans, molluscs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, cereals containing gluten, soybeans, celery and celeriac, mustard, lupin and sulphites), labels on food products must be emphasised and available all the time for consumers.

Sometimes people, and even policy-makers, consider allergy as a trivial disease, but they do not realise that the allergy might result in poor nutrition, quality of life, fear, restrictions, social isolation, and sometimes even death. In fact, 8% of food allergic people might have acute anaphylaxis reactions that could be fatal to their lives.

We, at EFA, consider the EU regulation on food information for consumers to be a positive step in order to improve health and quality of life for people with food allergies. We advocate to strengthen it with the following measures:

  • The full food ingredient list should be always indicated both for pre-packed and non-pre-packed foods (currently, there are exceptions based on the size of the package of the food), as other people may be allergic to other substances than to the 14 identified allergens;
  • Written information on the presence of allergens in non-pre-packed foods is the most reliable means to provide detailed information for allergic consumers, unless the person that prepared the food is available to list the ingredients to the consumers;
  • Precautionary labelling i.e. “may contain” mention should be abolished after the establishmentof “safe thresholds”;
  • The European Union should adopt a comprehensive approach on food labelling, taking into account all aspects relating to legibility, including font, colour and contrast, to guarantee clear legibility and safe choices for allergic consumers;
  • The European Commission should be responsible for sharing the best food labelling examples and practices among EU Member States legislations, and drafting and implementing EU-wide guidelines.

EFA’s documents and activities on food allergy

Key Facts

1 in 5 Europeans
has reactions to food

14 allergens
are recognised by the European Union

7 million Europeans
have food allergy, 8% of which produce acute anaphylaxis and considered potentially fatal


What's new - Food labelling

EFA member Dutch Food Allergies Foundation, has shared an interactive chart providing interesting information on food allergen regulation around the world. The chart can be accessed here.
On June 17th, the European Commission Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) organised a conference on medicines for rare diseases and children. About 150 experts were present from  ...


Latest research - Food labelling

On the 22nd of February, EFA Director of Policy and Strategy Roberta Savli and EFA Vice-President Erna Botjes participated in a workshop organised by Imparas, a COST action of the European U ...


Food allergy is becoming increasingly common in infants and young children. Managing this disease can be a great challenge due to the patients’ young age. Researchers have been looking at how to devel ...