A new study has found that many packaged foods can contain allergens in trace amounts and have no labeling to that effect. The study highlights the looseness of “may contain” labeling requirements.

Reliable labeling is largely left up to manufacturers as “may contain” laws regarding cross-contamination are generally fairly loose in most areas. A new Australasian study has found that 14 cases of anaphylaxis over less than a year’s time were due to mislabeled foods.

Cross-contamination risks are real and not always labeled.

Many foods are processed at the same facilities, often one after another, using machines that are used for multiple purposes. This multi-processing can easily lead to cross-contamination which, in turn, can lead to serious risks for those with severe allergies. Shared farming and other practices can also contribute.

The study from the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy reported that 14 cases of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reactions) were directly caused by packaged foods. Those fourteen cases happened in less than 9 months and half of them were due to foods having no warning statement at all. The rest were due to poor labeling or misapplied cross-contamination information.

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