QeA to EU Commission – Allergy to apples ?!

In EU, as well as in USA and other countries with different allergens requirements (e.g. Japan), the choice of the legislator is to specifically consider as “allergens” – for labeling purposes – only the so called “major allergens”: substances which account for the major % of food allergies found in the local population. 

It could happen that some allergies are not considered (think of garlic, strawberries…) by the legislator, so it is up to the consumer to check the ingredient list (where everything should be declared).

Those evaluations could nonetheless change in time, as explained by the EU Commission.

Question for written answer to the Commission

Tomáš Zdechovský (PPE) – 15th June 2016

Subject: Allergy to apples

Allergy to apples is affecting more and more people. It is an allergy which can manifest itself at any age.

The most common symptoms include tingling lips and itching or sore throat, as well as swelling or sneezing. A research project called SAFE was conducted across Europe to explore the occurrence of combined apple-pollen allergies. The research shows that the new varieties of apple have a greater impact on those affected.

The research also suggests that there is a geographical division between south and north, and that there are two specific types of apple allergy. In the north there are people allergic to raw apple pulp, while people from the south are allergic to the skin in all of its forms, whether raw or cooked.

The research shows that the form the allergy takes is influenced not only by the amount of the allergen in the apple, but also by the variety of apple and the storage conditions.

Has the Commission conducted any research into apple allergy and its impact on European consumers or is it planning to conduct such a research?

How is the EU protecting its consumers against this allergy?

Answer given by  Mr Moedas on behalf of the Commission – 1st September 2016

Research on allergies has been supported by the European Commission since the 5th Framework Programme, when the Safe project was funded. Currently, five projects are dealing with allergies to apples (Safe, Fast, Caramel, iFAAM, Europrevall) with total EU funding of more than EUR 28 million. Horizon 2020 also offers the possibility to receive funding to carry out research on apple allergy (see Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Participant Portal).

Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 requires, for all food, the mandatory provision of information on the presence of allergens whenever they are used in food as an ingredient. It also requires that such information must be emphasised on food labels through a typeset that clearly distinguishes it from the rest of the list of ingredients. The EU list of allergens is provided in its Annex II and has been established on the basis of a scientific opinion adopted by the European Food Safety Authority. According to this, the substances of Annex II are considered as part of the most common food allergens and there is ample evidence to support their inclusion into the list.

The regulation foresees a systematic re-examination of the allergen list and, when necessary, it is updated on the basis of the most recent scientific knowledge. At this stage, there are no available scientific data to support the inclusion of apples into the allergen list.

Nevertheless, when apple has been used as an ingredient in food, its present products, used in the production or preparation of food and still present in the finished product, must be stated in the list of ingredients

(Source: EU Parliament)

QeA to EU Commission – Protecting coeliac consumers and gluten-free logos

Question for written answer
to the Commission
Giovanni La Via (PPE) – 18th February 2016

Subject:  Products containing gluten: protecting coeliac consumers

Coeliac disease is an auto-immune disorder that affects 1% of the European population, in which the immune system can cause malabsorption and increases the risk of nutrient deficiencies, anaemia and osteoporosis, given that the obvious sources of gluten are a commonly-consumed range of food products.

Regulation (EC) No 1169/2011 prescribes a mandatory requirement for the supply of information on all foodstuff labels of substances known to cause allergic reactions and intolerances (including grains containing gluten) every time they are used as ingredients in food. Regulation (EC) No 41/2009 establishes EU harmonised conditions for the voluntary use of ‘gluten-free’ indications, without precluding the risk for people suffering from gluten intolerance.

Does the Commission consider that the only label indication on the presence of gluten, moreover in several foreign languages, may risk consumer confusion?

Does it consider it appropriate to establish harmonised conditions for the mandatory use of ‘gluten-free’ wording or the adoption of a clear and obvious European symbol indicating the absence of gluten?

Answer given by Mr Andriukaitis on behalf of the Commission – 6th April 2016

Regulation (EC) No 41/2009(1) lays down harmonised conditions that food business operators must respect to be able to use the ‘gluten-free’ and ‘very low gluten’ statements in the EU. Such harmonisation ensures the free movement of different foods appropriate to coeliacs’ needs and guarantees that such statements have the same meaning for all EU consumers.

To require operators to provide such statements on a mandatory basis would not be necessary to ensure consumer protection, given that Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011(2) requires, for all foods, the mandatory provision of information on the presence of substances known for their ability to trigger allergic reactions or intolerances (including cereals containing gluten and products thereof) whenever they are used in foods as an ingredient. In order to adequately inform consumers and avoid any confusion, Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 requires that such information must be provided in a language easily understood by consumers in the Member States where the food is marketed and must be emphasised on food labels through a typeset that clearly distinguishes it from the rest of the list of ingredients.

The use of ‘gluten-free’ logos is not harmonised at EU level. The Commission has no information on the use of such logos at national level or whether their use positively influences consumer behaviour, for example by allowing consumers to identify gluten-free products more easily. For this reason, the Commission does not currently intend to harmonise the use of such logos in the EU.

1) OJ L 16, 21.1.2009, p. 3. Regulation (EC) No 41/2009 will be replaced on 20.7.2016 by Regulation (EU) No 828/2014 (OJ L 228, 31.7.2014, p. 5).
(2) OJ L 304, 22.11.2011, p. 18.

(Source: European Parliament)