Information is essential for consumers suffering from food allergies or food intolerance. For this group of people a lack of detailed information is a handicap, because they can never be certain that the goods they buy are free from allergens. For that reason consumers suffering from food allergies or food intolerance need to be informed about the composition of food products via information on the label. Of course, Verstegen Spices & Sauces would like to help the consumer with this.
A food allergy is an abnormal reaction of the immune system to an essentially non-harmful food product or substance. It nearly always involves proteins. The human body considers the protein or proteins in a particular food product to be an intruder and produces an abundance of histamine, and other chemical substances, to battle the proteins. In cases of food intolerance or food sensitivity the immune system does not react.
The number of people suffering from food allergies or food intolerance is on the increase (according to the Institue of Food Allergy, 8% of all children and 3% of adults). Also, new allergens are being discovered. Allergens can cause nausea, dizziness, vomiting and eczema.
To provide better information to the consumer about the composition of food products and the presence of allergens, the European Committee has provided a guideline to improve the labelling of food products. Amongst other matters dealt with, it means that twelve recognised food products are considered to be an allergen, as well as derivatives of these, and the additive sulfite must always and without exception be named in the list of ingredients under their own name.
The official list of allergens
Cereals containing gluten and products made from grains that contain gluten.
- Grain containing gluten and products based on grain containing gluten;
- Crustaceans and products based on shellfish;
- Eggs and egg-based products;
- Fish and products based on fish;
- Peanuts and products based on groundnuts (peanuts);
- Soy and products based on soy;
- Milk and milk-based products (including the lactose);
- Nuts and nut products (nuts);
- Celery and products based on celery;
- Mustard and products based on mustard;
- Sesame seeds and products based on sesame seeds;
- Sulfur dioxide and sulphites in concentrations of at least 10 mg / kg or 10 mg/l;
- Lupine and products based on lupine;
- Molluscs and products based on molluscs.
The twelve substances have been selected because a great number of people are sensitive to these and consuming them could have consequences for their health. This particular guideline only deals with the known presence of allergens. The recommendation does not offer a solution for the possible presence of allergens due to cross contamination. Cross contamination means that an allergen could get into contact with a allergen free product due to, for example, insufficient cleaning of machinery.
Without a clear understanding of what happens with allergens in a production company, correct and meaningful labelling is impossible. A manufacturer wanting to provide reliable information regarding the presence of allergens will need to endeavour to prevent cross contamination. This is precisely the area that Verstegen Spices & Sauces has been involved in during the last years, and will continue to do so in the future. To make this clear and transparent towards the consumer we have constructed an allergen policy. This allergen policy is described in the next chapter and gives a general view on how Verstegen Spices & Sauces deal with allergens and which measures are continuously taken to prevent cross-contamination of allergens.