In a statement, Coles announced that beginning this month, it will re-label its entire private label range to ensure further food safety for customers with food allergies.
The new labelling will consist of bolding allergens in the ingredients list, providing an allergen summary statement as well as a precautionary statement if needed on all products. This move has business benefits too, the supermarket giant said given that Food Safety and Standards New Zealand (FSANZ) research has detailed the average food shopping time for nut allergic consumers takes 39% longer than it does for a consumer not shopping for food allergies.
“With food allergies on the increase, we are now in the position to officially launch our new and improved labelling to make life easier for the millions of Australians living with food allergies,” Neil McSkimming, Coles’ quality manager, said.
Coles announced the new labelling initiative to coincide with Food Allergy Awareness Week (May 14 to May 18, 2012), an initiative of Anaphylaxis Australia. The week helps to promote and develop through education, research and ongoing support, the awareness of food allergies among Australians.
Accurate, safe information
Anaphylaxis Australia is also being supported by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), which urged consumers with food allergies to be extra diligent when reading food labels in supermarkets.
“The $108bn food and grocery manufacturing industry recognises the need for consumers to access accurate information to assist them in making safer food choices,” Dr. Geoffrey Annison, acting chief executive of the AFGC, said.
“AFGC is pleased to support Food Allergy Awareness Week because food allergies are an important public health and safety issue, however, it’s critical that consumers read about allergens on food labels,” he said.
According to Annison, the AFGC has been working with a range of stakeholders including Anaphylaxis Australia, the Allergen Bureau and FSANZ to develop initiatives such as the AFGC Code of Practice for Food Labelling and Promotion, which includes the Food Industry Guide to Allergen Management and Labelling.
“AFGC is also looking at using new technologies in partnership with GS1 Australia, including mobile phone technologies which will be able to scan food products on supermarket shelves and provide information about allergens that may be in the product,” he said.
First developed by the food manufacturing industry in 2007, the world-leading Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling (VITAL) risk assessment tool allows food producers to assess the impact of allergen cross contact and provides appropriate precautionary labelling on products.
“It is important for food manufacturers to do their bit – and they certainly do – through the labelling and careful control of manufacturing processes,” he said.