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'Undeclared allergens' found in 19 per cent of food

Almost a fifth of food samples taken by Trading Standards in our area had undeclared allergens.

The Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service carried out the study.

It resulted in one Allergen Alert being issued by the Food Standards Agency for recall of a product nationally and from the Republic of Ireland.

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council's Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards, said: "Every year, Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards officers carry out a programme of inspection and routine Food Standards sampling to check whether food is as described on the label and compliant with compositional requirements. 

"It is reassuring to see that imported food is being monitored not only at the border but also inland by Trading Standards."

Sharon Anderson, Group Manager, Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service said: "Locally produced food is of particular importance for our region and checking that it is both local and properly compliant with the law is important to maintain the excellent reputation for local food in our region.

"Takeaways and restaurants that were found during last year’s inspections to have sold food that used food colouring in an unauthorised way, or had provided food which contained unauthorised food colours, were also re-visited and food samples taken for analysis.

"Of the samples taken, two failed once again, due to the use of unauthorised colours.

"An information gathering exercise was also undertaken on samples of ready to eat foods such as cakes, pasties, sandwiches and other confectionery, testing for the presence of allergens against the information provided on potential allergens.

"11 of 58 (19 %) samples taken were unsatisfactory when analysed for the presence of undeclared allergens. All premises affected were advised and enquiries made to identify causes." 

Samples of imported foods that were tested included:

  • Nuts and dried fruits from two major importers, to ascertain whether the food was contaminated with Aflatoxin or Ochratoxin, both of which are particularly dangerous to humans in small quantities. All samples were found to be satisfactory.
  • Imported seafood, found in Asian food restaurants was sampled for the presence of preservatives and contamination by heavy metals and man-made chemicals.  All samples were found to be satisfactory.
  • Imported nut and seed oils (often expensive) were also tested for authenticity and all samples were found to be satisfactory, being as described on the label.

Local food producers were also the subject of inspection:

  • Devon and Somerset being major cider producing areas, artisan ciders were tested for compliance with labelling, alcoholic content, the undisclosed use of sweeteners and the presence of sulphites (an allergen). The vast majority of the samples taken were satisfactory, however six samples were found to have artificial sweeteners which were not properly declared, and one contained sulphites which were not indicated. All alcoholic content was satisfactory.
  • Meat which claimed to be locally produced from specific areas (i.e. Devon or Somerset) was also analysed to check whether the meat was as described. All samples taken were satisfactory.

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