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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 28 Feb 2001

Vol. 531 No. 4

Written Answers. - Fatal Allergies.

Ivor Callely


139 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health and Children the preventative strategies in place for people with potentially fatal allergies to peanuts and other nuts; the number of people that have died over the past ten years from such a fatal allergy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6068/01]

From a food safety perspective, the preventative strategies in place for people with potentially fatal allergies to peanuts and other nuts relate to the labelling of products. The European Communities (Labelling, Presentation and Advertising of Foodstuffs) Regulations, 2000 (S.I. 92 of 2000) oblige food manufacturers and packagers to label pre-packaged food informatively. These regulations fall under the aegis of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Currently, this requirement obliges manufacturers to declare peanuts or other allergens on labels when the allergens constitute more than 25% of the finished product. There is at present no requirement on manufacturers to declare on labels where peanuts or other allergens constitute less than 25% of the finished product. This 25% rule is currently being revised at EU level. In the White Paper on Food Safety, the European Commission has announced that it intends to propose a new amendment to the labelling directive. The proposal is to abolish the 25% limit or to reduce it to 5%.

There are no data available on deaths attributed to allergies involving peanuts. The data available from the hospital in-patient inquiry scheme for 1995-98 shows that 41 patients were admitted as in-patients having been diagnosed as suffering from anaphylactic shock as a result of ingesting peanuts.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has established a working group to examine issues such as the prevention and management of adverse reactions to foods, taking into account the main allergens, peanuts, shellfish, etc. The group aims to have a report dealing with prevention and labelling issues later this year which will heighten consumer awareness.