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'May contain' may not contain

A MAJOR problem for people with food allergies is the prevalence of 'may contain' labelling carried on many products.

Foods which are labelled as possibly containing nuts sometimes don't -- the label is purely precautionary on the part of manufacturers.

It's an international problem, says allergy expert Professor Jonathan Hourihan, and as a result some food allergy sufferers and their families are starting to ignore the labels.

Over the next few months his paediatric allergy clinic at Cork University Hospital is sending a representative sample of foods carrying such labels to the USA for analysis to see whether they actually contain nuts.

Dr Pat O'Mahony, chief specialist in food technology at the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, explains the situation.

"Legally, a food manufacturer using a food allergen in a product must include a label indicating that to the customer. However, 'may contain' labels are not legally required even through they are justifiable in some cases. In other cases they are not justifiable."

Health & Living