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Food Safety Focus (165th Issue, April 2020) – Food Incident Highlight

Undeclared Allergens in Prepackaged Foods

From time to time, there are food recalls due to undeclared allergens. For instance, recently the Centre for Food Safety has ordered the trade to stop selling some bottled pesto and prepackaged spring roll pastry products due to the presence of undeclared peanuts and milk respectively.

A food allergy occurs when the body's immune system reacts unusually to specific foods. Although allergic reactions are often mild, they can be severe such as soft tissue swelling and anaphylactic shock. Foods which cause the most severe reactions and most cases of food allergies include: cereals containing gluten, crustacean, eggs, fish, milk, tree nuts, peanuts and soybeans. In Hong Kong, the presence of any of these allergens, or sulphite (a food additive) in concentrations of 10 parts per million or more, must be labelled on prepackaged foods. People suffering from food allergies should avoid foods that cause allergies and read food labels carefully. The food trade should ensure that food labels comply with local regulatory requirements and control unidentified allergens in their products.