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The dangers of incorrect food labelling

Every week, there is a new product recall alert issued in the UK due to a labelling error. This is resulting in thousands of potentially deadly situations, with companies at risk of losing not only tens of thousands of pounds, but also their integrity as a trusted brand.

In the UK, recalls are issued through the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which monitors products to make sure food is safe and what it says it is. Since the beginning of 2019, there have been 48 food product recalls in the UK due to undisclosed allergens.

At the beginning of the year, a batch of party food vegetable spring rolls from a leading UK supermarket were recalled due to the fact they make contain duck spring rolls – which weren’t listed on the pack.

There have also been a number of recalls relating to products containing unlisted gluten, presenting a danger to anyone with coeliac disease.

This week, one brand was forced to recall its peanut butter from supermarket shelves across the country – due to the fact it doesn’t contain a warning in English that it does indeed contain three different types of nut. Another brand released an alert of a similar nature for its hazelnut spread, which again wasn’t listed in English among the ingredients.

These weren’t the only nut-related recalls, with alerts of this nature commonplace. An international ice cream brand recalled its non-dairy option due to unlabelled almonds and walnuts presenting a health risk to nut allergy sufferers.

In the same week, one leading supermarket retailer recalled its free-from cookies due to the fact they contained milk, which could have led to potentially devastating consequences. A company producing brownies and another gluten free bagels also had to recall their products due to milk not being listed among ingredients.

Labelling errors are not only related to allergen information. The same supermarket retailer mentioned above recalled another bakery item – this time a child’s novelty birthday cake – due to the packaging incorrectly stating the toy included with the cake was not suitable for children aged less than two years, when this should be three years – presenting a choking hazard and a safety risk to small children.

Labelling errors are a common reason for recall alerts across the entire product spectrum – from electronics to medicines. Some have suggested it is due to the slow uptake of technology, with companies relying on manual packaging and labelling processes, and thus putting them at risk of human error.

According to research conducted by the Food Standards Agency, around two million people in the UK have food allergies, so it’s not something that should be treated lightly.

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