With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for people with food allergies.
Are you among the more than 17 million Europeans who suffer from food allergies? 3.5 million of those sufferers are under 25 years of age and children are increasingly affected. Most allergic reactions among children are caused by eggs, peanuts, cows’ milk, fish and nuts, while half of the allergic reactions among adults are caused by fruits such as bananas, pineapples, apples, pears, cherries or strawberries; vegetables such as celery, carrots and aromatic herbs; and various nuts and peanuts.
Thanks to the EU, you now have the right to be better informed about potential allergens in the food you buy. The EU law on Food Information to Consumers (known as the ‘FIC Regulation’) makes it obligatory for all pre-packed food to include in the list of ingredients information on any allergens it contains. The 14 most common food allergens must be highlighted by using a special font, style or background colour. For non-pre-packed foods, EU countries can adopt their own national rules on how to display allergen information. If they don’t have rules of their own, they must use the EU ones instead.
In 2017, the EU updated its guidelines on food substances causing allergies or intolerances so as to help consumers, businesses and authorities in understanding and putting the EU rules into practice. The list of the most common allergens is based on scientific advice that is kept up to date by the European Food Safety Authority.
The EU also funds research projects aimed at shedding light on different aspects of food allergies and at developing new treatments.
- European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety website
- European Commission notice relating to the provision of information on substances or products causing allergies or intolerances
- European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) website, Allergens in food: scientific advice updated
- Fact Sheets on the European Union: Food Safety