Precautionary allergen labelling is available to food manufacturers as a voluntary option if they wish to use it on their product labels. However, a number of recent surveys, including one carried out by the FSAI in 2011, have returned a high "failure" rate for food products with precautionary allergen labelling, i.e. the product did not contain the allergen that the label had cautioned against.
For consumers with food hypersensitivity, risk management requires strict adherence to an avoidance diet and they have no option but to assume the precautionary label is accurate and are therefore excluded from a significant number of food products. Furthermore, the available range of "free-from" foods is almost entirely limited to gluten-free while the purchasing of products via the internet can be cost prohibitive and may carry unforeseen risks.
This investigation set out to identify the factors that underpin the food purchasing choices of food hypersensitive consumers on the island of Ireland including the obstacles they face and the level of trust they have in food suppliers. It also investigated the use of precautionary allergen labelling from the food manufacturer’s perspective and the influence of the free-from food market and the capacity for food allergen testing. A number of recommendations are proffered that focus on improving the opportunities for food hypersensitive consumers to make safe food choices.