Consumers with food allergies often complain about the labels given for allergies. The famous “may contain” labels are seen as not enough or too vague. Australian scientists have developed an online calculator to better explain labeling and ingredients.

The Allergen Burearu is a collaboration of food manufacturers and scientists and their voluntary, online risk assessment calculator, called the Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labeling (VITAL) system, more accurately predicts food allergens. Going over and above required allergen labeling, the VITAL system attempts to add more information for consumers than the “may contain” labeling already on foods.

“We are working with Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia,” says Dr. Tom Lewis of the Allergen Bureau.

The Allergen Bureau has a Scientific Expert Panel made up of top allergen experts from around the world. They’ve created a risk matrix to give a more precise determination of a product’s allergen risks. The online VITAL system was itself made by Ionata Digital, an Australian technology company, allowing the new Bureau system to be brought to consumers.

Using reported incidents from participating food manufacturers, the VITAL system tracks how often “may contain” becomes “does contain” using scientific measures. Amounts of allergens found and how often they are noted, as well as their likelihood of triggering a reaction, are all assessed and scored, creating the likelihood matrix.

The VITAL system is made specifically for the Australian market and its legislative requirements, but plans are in the works for a European and North American version as well. Time tables for release have not been determined.

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