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Perceptions of precautionary labelling among parents of children with food allergy and anaphylaxis

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Precautionary labelling for food allergens such as “may contain traces of” are now present on more than half of all packaged processed foods in Australian supermarkets.1 Recent European and United States studies have shown that this high prevalence of precautionary labelling as well as consumers’ understanding that these statements are voluntary may have led to consumers not heeding precautionary statements. This might expose food-allergic consumers to the risk of allergen contamination, which may lead to life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis.2,3

The Australian manufacturing industry has undertaken to develop a new standard known as VITAL (voluntary incidental trace allergen labelling), to help improve standards for declaring the presence of allergens within foods. In 2007, a new precautionary statement “may be present” was introduced. The VITAL process has attracted international interest, but, to date, the “may be present” statement is rarely used.1,4

In this study, we aimed to gain an understanding of the behaviour, perceptions and opinions of parents about precautionary labelling, stratified by whether or not their food-allergic child had a history of anaphylaxis. We also…