What to do if a packaged product has potentially been the trigger of an allergic reaction.
This checklist outlines the protocol to follow if you feel there may be a problem with a packaged product e.g. undeclared allergen.
If after ingesting a product an allergic reaction has been triggered, follow procedure on the individual’s Action Plan for Allergy/Anaphylaxis.
Once able, follow this protocol:
Investigating and resolving food complaints is important. Report the product with both the food manufacturer and the state health department.
Keep a sample of the product and the original packaging. The sample can be tested. Remember the lot/batch number and Best before/Use by date on the package helps identify a specific plant site, production date and time.
- Re read the ingredient list to check that the individual’s food trigger is not listed.
- Make sure you have not missed the allergen in the ingredient list. Was it listed in unfamiliar wording such as casein instead of milk, for example?
- There have been incidents where consumers have been caught out by misleading information on a product e.g. the wording “allergen free” has attracted them to a product only to find an allergen is also listed as one of the ingredients or in the precautionary statement.
- Once you are sure you have not missed a potential allergen that was listed in the ingredient list, call the manufacturer’s Consumer Support Team, report the incident and inquire about the suspected trigger product.
It is important for consumers to contact manufacturers directly. Calls to Consumer Support Teams are recorded so that the manufacturers can be made aware of potential labelling errors, omissions and potential undeclared allergens. This allows them to then action an investigation.
Go to Help Sheet - How to call a consumer support team
In order to ascertain if the product may have been contaminated by an undeclared allergen, the product will need to be sent to a laboratory for testing.
Important note: Check the product to see in which state or territory the product has been either
- Manufactured in
- Or if imported, find the state or territory of the distributor.
Testing of the food
This can be done by both the food manufacturer and the state health department. If it involves an interstate food business, it will be referred to the health department in that state, which will be in a better position to investigate on a local level. The local council in which you live will communicate with you regarding collection of the product and investigation. Be sure to keep details of packaging (photo, bar code, pack size, best before date etc) and a sample of the food product in case it needs to be tested at a later date. Make sure any sample you keep is well labelled so there is no chance of using the food product and triggering another allergic reaction.
Be aware that the testing protocol includes testing of another product from that batch (unopened product) to help confirm findings i.e. to establish whether you may have accidently contaminated the product with the allergen when you opened the packaging.
Environmental Health Officers (EHO) are employed by local councils in every state and territory. An EHO will collect the product for testing.
What happens next?
The health department, local council and the food manufacturer will review the results. The results of the testing will determine what action is required. There could be a number of outcomes.You should be kept informed on progress of the investigation. If you are not satisfied with any aspect of the process or outcome, email or call Food Standards Australia New Zealand and Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia for advice.