What you need to know about 'Free from' claims and Traces Statements
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT 'FREE FROM' CLAIMS and TRACES STATEMENTS
We at Allergy Train understand the range of allergies and intolerances in our community and we know firsthand how it feels to miss out or to be misinformed about products that we consume. We therefore aim to be as transparent as possible, regarding what we know about the products we sell. This is why we investigate every product we sell before making a decision to bring it in.
- We are always looking for :
- Products that can ensure there is nothing ‘artificial’ in the ingredients, even those that may be hidden in labelling loop holes.
- Products that are as ‘free from’ as possible to cover as many different dietary needs as possible. This is not always possible, but we feel it is important to be very clear with the information that we present to our customers. Our website has filters that compare products that declare they are free from as well as those that do not include allergens in the product, but have not made a declaration or state they might contain traces. We also share as much information about the product on our website as we can with you so that you can make your own decision.
We spend a LOT of time researching suitable products, so that it is easier for you to make decisions about whether the products are safe for you or someone you know who has food sensitivities.
We know that many, many people with allergies do not avoid traces in products, except maybe the highest risk foods like cereals and chocolate. We also know there are some people out there who are very sensitive to traces and appreciate a level of information that helps them make a judgement about what risks they should and should not take with regards to pre-packaged foods. This is why we spend so much time doing the research and making it available to you on our website or via our staff instore.
Unfortunately, It is ultimately impossible to declare that 100% that products which say they are free from ‘actually are’ free from as there is always some level of risk or human error. A delivery driver bringing a box in might have had peanuts for lunch for example.
We don’t claim to be perfect, as things are always changing.. packaging, ingredients etc and sometimes and we are always learning too. There is so much to know… It is for these reasons, we request that you always check packaging before you consume, to double, triple check the ingredients. Just in case… if you are ever in doubt, don’t eat it, contact the manufacturer for more info or contact us and we will do our best to give you the information you need as quickly as possible.
Ingredients that go into our kitchen for our café and take-home meals and goodies are also checked with a high level of scrutiny. Again, we are looking for products that are ‘free from’. We never have any ingredients containing gluten, dairy, eggs or nuts in our kitchen and we avoid anything with ‘traces of’ statements. This means that it can sometimes take months to find one ingredient we need for a recipe. Did you know that most coconut in Australia has either sulphites or a nut traces statement on it?? We know because it took us many months to locate a supplier that could tell us the product was free from all allergens and sulphites.
Did you know that just because a product does not have a traces statement on it, does not mean it is ‘free from?’ The traces statement is not mandatory on labels in AUS and it is confusing. How do you work out where to draw the line and say your product is safe or not. Many manufacturers get confused and scared and put on the statement even when the risk is almost negligible. Some manufacturers just don’t understand enough to make a call and others don’t put it on as they have no idea about what constitutes a risk and they don’t even think about it.
We also understand that food labelling is confusing and finding the information about how to label products correctly is also confusing. There are a number of resources out there for people to help them work out if a traces statement is needed, but very little about the requirements for making a free from claim. So manufactures get stuck half way in between and have trouble making a decision, or they just don’t know what the steps are to take to assess the level of risk. VITAL have set up a check list for working out if a traces declaration is required, but the number of products I see on the market with incorrect labelling… not just for allergens, but all labelling is actually quite scary. It’s not that they are trying to mislead us, I believe it is purely a lack of understanding of the risks, the laws and the issues and a lack of clarity of the information that is out there for people even with relevant backgrounds to make sense of.