Often people ask me what they should do when they see a "𝘮𝘢𝘺 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘯" label.
My first question to them is, how many variations of that wording have they seen?
𝐒𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰, 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐯𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐦𝐞𝐚𝐧 𝐞𝐱𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐥𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐞.
Several other studies went to see what was the actual variation of allergen concentration.
What did they find?
In reality, there is still a significant risk of a not labelled food, to contain a substantial amount of allergens.
But why is it that the food industry has this massive variability in warnings they use and still have so much potential cross-contamination of allergens?
The problem tracks back to political parties, the way they are funded or the individual politician's financial interest.
What I am saying might be controversial, but let's look at what is known.
Most of you have never heard of the "𝘌𝘶𝘳𝘰𝘱𝘦𝘢𝘯 𝘍𝘰𝘰𝘥 𝘍𝘰𝘳𝘶𝘮".
In the 𝘜𝘚𝘈 alone, in the 2014 elections, the food industry donated $𝟏𝟕𝐌, in total, to both parties.
This comes to the 𝐏'𝐬 I have spoken about before.
Those, also called 𝐄𝐃'𝐬 (𝘌𝘭𝘪𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘋𝘰𝘴𝘦), look into the dose needed to cause an allergic reaction and the percentage of allergic people who will react.
So a 𝐏𝟏 or 𝐄𝐃𝟏 means that the potential cross-contamination in a particular food will lead to 1% or fewer allergic people reacting to that food.
The best collaboration done so far is the one between the food industry in Australia, the Government and Allergy Organizations.
(see the attached table to see the ED for the 14 main allergens)
Such an agreement does not exist in the 𝘌𝘜 at present.
The hope for the 𝘜𝘒, at the moment, is that the so called "𝐍𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐬𝐡𝐚'𝐬 𝐋𝐚𝐰" will lead to a change in this practice.
But we need to go deeper than simple labelling, look into manufacturing practices, and avoid allergens altogether.
Dr Costa is a Consultant Paediatrician and fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.