Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Report on the food survey

Peanut and hazelnut are widely present in a great number of foods but, unfortunately, they sometimes appear in foods where they are not expected to occur. This can pose a problem especially for allergic consumers. A food survey was conducted where suspected pre-packaged foodstuffs from different EU member states were screened for the presence of hidden peanut and hazelnut proteins using the newly developed test-kits.

There were 11 participating countries in this study: Portugal, Spain, Italy, Belgium, France, United Kingdom, Slovenia, Greece, Norway, Czech Republic and Austria. Each county submitted between 35-40 food samples. All foodstuffs were tested using the two (2) newly developed test kits. The results given by these test kits are quantitative for the method ELISA and qualitative for the LFD method (meaning positive or negative results - presence or absence) for peanut and hazelnut protein.
The food categories included in the survey were: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, cookies, ice-cream, yoghurt and breakfast cereals. Products suspected to have undeclared peanut and/or hazelnut but that carry no declaration were preferably included. However, many products already carry may contain & statements on their labels.

Our results show that, in terms of food categories, cookies were the foodstuffs with most undeclared ingredients. Milk and dark chocolates followed in 2nd and 3rd place, respectively. The categories breakfast cereals ranked 4th, whereas ice-creams and yoghurts were placed at the end of the list.

Hazelnut was found in many more cases than peanut (nearly 5 times mores hazelnut positive results than peanut). This is most likely due to European consumption habits and is in accordance with literature. In some cases, like France, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the UK, only hazelnut was found.

If we have a look at the overall results, in terms of countries, we see that all 11 countries showed positive results (although in some countries, like Slovenia, this is much more of a problem). In order to achieve a high level of protection and guarantee consumers the right to information, producers have to be more careful when choosing their ingredients as well as give an indication of the presence of these ingredients on their labels in order for allergic individuals to avoid consuming potentially harmful allergens. Regular and adequate cleaning of production lines should be performed in order to avoid accidental contamination and correct labelling.

Labelling should not be regarded as the only means of information however it is advisable to assist consumers who have allergies or intolerances as much as possible by providing them with more comprehensible information on the composition of foodstuffs. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that Directive 2003/89 be transposed into national law by all Member-States. Fortunately, almost all participating countries have done so except for Italy.

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