Hidden Allergens, White Mill

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Food allergies, allergens and food safety, as much talked about as little done. The Mulino Bianco case.

The ‘Food Information to Consumers‘ regulation (1) strengthened the protection already introduced by the previous ‘allergen directive,’ (2) to guard the health of allergic consumers. Providing for bothgraphic evidence of allergens in ingredient lists and mandatory information on foods sold in bulk and pre-wrapped, as well as on foods served in public establishments, canteens
catering
,
street food
.

The information precepts have been clarified, for the avoidance of doubt, in the European Commission’s recent guidelines. And it is unequivocal that products lacking the prescribed news are dangerous, (3) to be subjected to appropriate corrective actions and sanctions. (4)

In particular, the illegality of label references to:

– ‘tracesof …(allergenic ingredients)‘. Because no scientific consensus has been reached on contamination thresholds below which a pathological reaction can be ruled out. Nor, as a result, has it been possible so far to arrive at a legal definition of the aforementioned ‘tracks’,

Undefined categories of allergenic ingredients. That is, ‘nuts,’ or ‘nuts with nuts’ cannot be designated by the category name. (5) Instead, having to specify which, among the allergenic ingredients precisely listed in Annex II of EU Regulation 1169/11, is or may be present in the food.

In light of the above, it is not given to understand the persistence on the shelf of labels with the words ‘May contain traces of: nuts, sesame, soy and eggs.’ Not on craft products – which are also subject to the aforementioned rules-let alone on the packaging of a leading brand like Mulino Bianco.

Even, on Mulino Bianco labels, it states that ‘Highlighted ingredients may cause allergies or intolerances.’ On closer inspection, however, it is EU Regulation 1169/11 itself that prescribes graphic evidence of allergens in ingredient lists. (6) It is therefore an ambiguous wording, which may confuse the average consumer. Where evidence on the label of allergenic ingredients, far from being a prerogative of the products under consideration, is instead common – by law – to all foods. (7)

It took our antitrust complaint to put an end to Barilla Group’s misleading nutrition claims. Hopefully, we do not need another complaint in order to obtain compliance with even more essential regulations, such as those now recalled.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) See reg. EU 1169/11, Articles 9.1.c and 21, Annex II. See also the updates offered by Food Allergy Italy, at http://www.foodallergyitalia.org/ita/page.php?cat=news&id=2&item=140

(2) See dir. 2003/89/EC as amended, repealed by the regulation referred to in footnote 1

(3) See reg. EC 178/02, so-called General Food Law, Articles 14 and 18

(4) See articles http://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/category/notizie/domande-e-risposte/etichette-prive-di-informazione-su-allergeni-quali-sanzioni and http://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/category/notizie/domande-e-risposte/allergeni-tracce-e-sanzioni-risponde-l-avvocato-dario-dongo. Also highlighting https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/controlli-il-ruolo-dellamministrazione-sanitaria/

(5) In fact, ‘nuts’ are not among the categories in Annex VII, Part B of reg. EU 1169/11 (foods that can be ‘designated by the category name rather than a specific name’). Conversely, ‘substances or products causing allergies or intolerances‘ must be cited ‘with a clear reference to the name of the substance or product listed in Annex II‘ (EU reg. 1169/11, Art. 21.1.a)

(6) See reg. EU 1169/11, Art. 21.1.b

(7) Therefore, a violation of ‘Fair Information Practices’ under Reg. EU 1169/11, Art. 7.1.c