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Food legislation

Food service

People with food allergy have a responsibility to declare their food allergy when consuming food from a food service provider, even if they are not personally purchasing the food (e.g. work function, wedding).

Their food decisions are then reliant on the information provided by the food service provider or food retailer about whether to purchase or consume the food.

The Australian state and territory government agencies are responsible for implementing, monitoring and enforcing food regulation through their own various Food Acts and other food related legislation. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources enforces the Food Standards Code at the border in relation to imported food. Australian state and territory governments implement and enforce the food standards developed by FSANZ through their respective laws.

For more information refer to: http://foodregulation.gov.au/internet/fr/publishing.nsf/Content/implementation-and-enforcement-of-food-laws

Links to relevant Australian legislation can be found at: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/about/foodlawandtreaties/Pages/default.aspx

Packaged food

People with food allergy rely on accurate information being provided on the labels of packaged food. They use this information to make decisions about whether to purchase and consume the food.

Packaged food must comply with Standard 1.2.3 of the Food Standards Code. This Standard specifies requirements for mandatory declaration of common food allergens:

Standard 1.2.3 – Information requirements – warning statements, advisory statements and declarations

1.2.3—4     Mandatory declaration of certain foods or substances in food

  1. For the labelling provisions, if any of the following foods or substances is present in a food for sale in a manner listed in subsection (2), a declaration that the food or substance is present is required:
    1. added sulphites in concentrations of 10 mg/kg or more;
    2. any of the following foods, or products of those foods:
      1. cereals containing *gluten, namely, wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt and their hybridised strains other than where these substances are present in beer and spirits;
      2. crustacea;
      3. egg;
      4. fish, except for isinglass derived from swim bladders and used as a clarifying agent in beer or wine;
      5. milk;
      6. peanuts;
      7. soybeans;
      8. sesame seeds;
      9. tree nuts, other than coconut from the fruit of the palm Cocos nucifera;
      10. lupin.
  2. For subsection (1), the food or substance may be present as:
    1. an ingredient or as an ingredient of a *compound ingredient; or
    2. a substance *used as a food additive, or an ingredient or component of such a substance; or
    3. a substance or food *used as a processing aid, or an ingredient or component of such a substance or food.

This is an excerpt from the Food Standards Code and it is important to refer to the source document to ensure a full understanding of the legislation including supporting documents: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/Pages/default.aspx

In addition:

  • Schedule 9-2 of the Code sets out mandatory declaration for the presence of bee pollen in food.
  • Clause 1.2.3-3 sets out the requirement for a mandatory warning statement for the presence of royal jelly in food.
  • Standard 1.2.1 sets out the responsibility of the supplier of a food (e.g. importers, manufacturers, retailers and food service providers) to either:
    • declare allergens on the label,
    • provide information about allergens in connection with the display of the food (if the food does not have to bear a label), or
    • provide information about allergens in food if requested by a customer (if the food does not have to bear a label).

Further to this, the relevant food acts include the following:

  • It is an offence to fail to comply with the labelling requirements set out in the Code.
  • It is an offence to make a false or misleading claim that a food is free of an allergen.

Additional Offences

Under the relevant food acts, there are additional offences:

False description of food

  1. A person must not cause food intended for sale to be falsely described if the person knows that a consumer of the food who relies on the description will, or is likely to, suffer physical harm.
  2. A person must not sell food that the person knows is falsely described and will, or is likely to, cause physical harm to a consumer of the food who relies on the description.

This can apply where a food business continues to supply a food even though it is aware, or should be aware, that the food contains an ‘undeclared’ allergen.

The Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement Strategy provides guidance for food regulators, including guiding principles and appendices to outline actions that may be taken: http://foodregulation.gov.au/internet/fr/publishing.nsf/Content/publication-Australia-New-Zealand-Enforcement-Strategy

Content created October 2018

A food allergy awareness project supported by

The National Allergy Strategy is an initiative of the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) and Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA), as the leading medical and patient organisations for allergy in Australia.

This project received funding from the Australian Government Department of Health.