Login | Register

EU Labeling Requirements

4 replies [Last post]
By ElizabethY on Thu, 02-19-09, 13:01

We're planning a trip to Germany and Greece this summer, and I'm nervous about it. My husband is German, so we have to take our son to see his German grandparents, but we haven't traveled with him since the diagnosis and I don't know quite what to expect. When we eat out, it's relatively easy to take food for him, since he's a toddler and doesn't really know the difference. So, my question is, is the labeling in EU countries the same as in the US? Is it safe to buy stuff at the grocery stores there and trust the labels? Anyone have any experience with this?

Groups: None
By mkate on Sat, 06-06-09, 05:51

Hi Elizabeth,

You might already be travelling by now, but I'll answer anyway. I don't know if there are any EU regulations per se, though I'm looking into it. We live in Spain and our son just recently had a peanut reaction so this is still pretty new to us. So, I don't know what the law says or even if there is a law at the EU level.

However, I have noticed many "may contain" labels on many different products. I don't think that is mandatory, but many of the international companies label that way, probably in part because of demand for doing so in the US? I have contacted a few companies to ask if they label for may contains/cross-contamination/etc and the few that I have asked say that they do. My advice (again, it may be too late if you are already travelling) is to have your husband think of a few products that you will be likely to want to buy, and have him (or you, if you are fluent in German) email the companies before you go. That way you can have a basic list of known-safe products to start out with.

I know that Kellogs in Spain does label for cross/contamination, and they have an allergen page on their website. So does the Nestle baby food division (label for traces, I mean.)

I also wonder if you could get that information from international companies in English via a query to their US website.

Good luck!

Groups: None
By ElizabethY on Tue, 06-09-09, 13:49

Kate - thanks so much for the response. We aren't traveling until September, so the advice is very useful. My husband seemed to think the EU countries are required to label for cross-contamination, but he was going to look into it as well. If you learn anything else, let me know, and I'll do the same.


Groups: None
By mkate on Tue, 06-09-09, 20:24

I found something else. This is the Directive 2003/89/CE which regulates food labelling in EU countries:
It's a bit heavy on the legalese and I haven't gotten all the way through it, but it appears that the top allergens must be listed-- though it does make an exception for ingredients used "in very small quantities" (in another article I read that the threshold was under 2% of the total ingredients.)

I have seen many products label for traces, including sesame (that one seems to be common here.)

But, I don't think that this directive is necessarily an actual law-- more like a very strong recommendation to member countries as they elaborate their own laws. I'm not exactly sure how it works. If you find out anything more specific, please do post it!

But as I said, a lot of companies are labelling for traces and the increased awareness means that there is allergen information on many websites, so that is positive.

I recently started a blog with information on PA in Spain-- there's not much there yet, but feel free to visit, in case there is some crossover re: products.

One thing I haven't posted yet is that a mortar and pestle for home cooking can be contaminated. My MIL has used ours on many occasions during her visits, and often just uses it to do garlic, parsely, and paprika for putting on meat, but I know that on occasion she has pounded nuts in there to add to a sauce. So, one more thing to get rid of...

Good luck!

Groups: None
By sidni on Sun, 06-21-09, 02:54

I just came back from 2 months in Europe. I was an exchange student in Germany in 2002, and visited again this year. I found that often labeling is quite good and used may contain statements. I could NOT find safe bread at the closest grocery store to me though.

Also, in Germany, I have seen grocery store sections with US products, like Hershey's chocolate bars, kraft mac n cheese, condiments, marshmallow fluff, and other silly things like that.

My advice...
Do NOT buy something that has no allergen statement, as it doesn't necessarily mean it is made in an allergen free plant.
Peanuts are not particularly common in German products but some tree nuts are.
Bring an allergy card for restaurants in German and English.

I found it very easy to eat in Germany, but I did a lot of my own cooking. My very close friend there is a nurse and deals with allergies often, and she says that most people seem to trust the labels. Instead of buying premade meals, make your own. They have some great produce, good cheap pasta, beans, and tomatoes, really good yogurt, some fantastic cheeses, and of course, wonderful sauerkraut. 7 years ago, I recall being very impressed by the sliced ham and some different sausages, but I'm now an inflexible vegetarian :)

If your husband speaks German, you will find it very easy there. I love Germany. Drink some Hohes-C orange juice while you're there, it's bizarrely delicious and addictive (and pure juice...)

Groups: None

Peanut Free and Nut Free Directory

Our directory is highlights our favorite products for people with peanut and nut allergies.