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100% allergen-free?

Allergen-free, what does that actually mean? That was what crossed the minds of the complainants when they saw the claims (100%) allergen-free tomato and vegetable soup and allergen-free meat on the internet. The complainants took this case to the Advertising Code Authority (RCC): because what if you are allergic to meat? Or the herbs such as garlic and pepper that are processed in the soups? That can also go wrong.

The advertisers defended themselves by stating that their products are free from allergens that must be declared: Annex II of the EU regulation No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers contains a list of 14 allergens that must be declared including the widely known; gluten, shellfish, milk and nuts. But can you call a product (100%) allergen-free only when the product is free from the allergens that must be declared?

The RCC does not believe so. The RCC ruled in both cases that the claim   (100%) allergen-free is misleading. The claim raises the expectation that the products contain no allergens at all, while the claim only refers to the list of allergens that must be declared. Consumers who must or who wish to avoid allergens could be misled in their decision to purchase these products. They will not expect that the product contains other allergens than the 14 obligatory ones.

The RCC draws a clear line: the expression (100%) allergen-free may only be used if no allergens have been used at all. An interesting follow-up question is whether this claim can be made at all; is there not always at least someone allergic to a product?

Stephanie Reinders Folmer, section health, beauty food

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