Belgian Food Safety Agency proposes reference doses for the risk assessment of allergens. The aim is to guide the operators when it comes to the ‘may contain’ allergen labeling.

The Scientific Committee of the Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) has recently issued an Opinion on Reference doses for the allergens mentioned in Annex II of Regulation (EU) n° 1169/2011 of 25 October 2011. Regulation (EU) n° 1169/2011 on food information to consumers requires to label the intolerance or allergy causing substances used in the manufacture or preparation of a food.

Currently, there are no legal thresholds or reference doses for food allergens. Risk assessment processes have, however, been developed by the Allergen Bureau of the Australian food industry (‘Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergy Labelling’ (VITAL® 2.0)) and the Dutch Bureau for Risk Assessment and Research Programming (BuRO) of the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) in The Netherlands.

FASFC Scientific Committee proposes reference doses for the allergens of eggs, peanuts, milk, soybeans, nuts (hazelnut, walnut, cashew and other nuts), lupin, mustard, shrimp, wheat (with extension to other cereals containing gluten) and sesame seeds. Reference doses for crustaceans, molluscs, fish and celery could not be proposed due to insufficient scientific data. The information included in the Opinion may be used when managing risks arising from the presence of allergens in food. However, the proposed reference doses should not be used for claiming that a foodstuff is ‘free’ of a specific allergen. The use of precautionary allergen labelling should be minimised through a proactive allergen management system in the context of HACCP (‘Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points’).

The Opinion is based on the scientific literature and the opinions of experts and is subject to revision whenever new developments in terms of knowledge and data occur.