The number of food recalls in Australia rose last year, with undeclared allergens the leading cause, according to the latest data from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

Australian food recalls numbered 100 in 2018, up from 69 in 2017, with 46 per cent due to undeclared allergens, followed by microbial contamination (20 per cent).

A review of allergen-related recalls shows four main problems areas with undeclared allergens, led by packaging errors, according to FSANZ CEO Mark Booth.

“FSANZ has identified four key causes of allergen-related recalls, including lack of skills and knowledge of labelling requirements, supplier verification, packaging errors, and accidental cross contamination," Booth said.

“These results demonstrate that food businesses in Australia need to be across the mandatory allergen labelling requirements in the Food Standards Code.

“Correct allergen labelling can mean the difference between life and death for people with food allergies, so it is vital that food businesses meet labelling requirements.”

Issues surrounding a lack of skills and knowledge of labelling requirements saw, for example, pasta being declared as an ingredient, but not wheat, ingredients lists on labelling not being updated following reformulation, and ingredients not being fully translated into English from the original language.

Supplier verification issues saw manufacturers purchasing raw ingredients containing allergens, but not being informed of this by the supplier.

Packaging error examples included product being packed in the wrong packaging, or the accidental use of a dairy free claim on-pack instead of a gluten free claim.

Accidental cross contamination either of a raw ingredient, or during final production process, were identified via consumer complaints, distributor or retailer complaints, company and government testing and/or in-house testing.

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