If you live in the U.S. and have food allergies, you're probably accustomed to checking the ingredient list of any packaged food, looking for a warning like 'contains peanuts.' But these warnings aren't required everywhere in the world. Those shopping in China's grocery stores, for example, can't count on knowing whether there are potential allergens in the foods they are buying.
Starting in April, however, all prepackaged foods sold in China will be required to note potential allergens, according to the . The country's new national standards include food allergen regulations for the first time, according to Fan Yongxiang of the National Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety.
Sum Jianquin, director of the nutrition department at Shanghai's Huadong Hospital, notes that severe food allergy reactions can be fatal. It is estimated that in China, approximately 1-2 percent of adults, and 5 percent of infants and small children are affected by food allergies. The right major food allergens account for most food allergies in the country, and they are all included in the new allergen labeling requirements.
Shen Wei, the father of a 7-year-old who is allergic to fish, said "I think it's a big step forward to safeguard consumers' health and rights to be informed - if food businesses really follow the rule." With the new regulations in place, it remains to be seen whether Chinese food manufacturers will comply, and already there have been controversies over the use of 'may contain' allergen warnings. They have been called unclear and confusing by Chinese consumers who are unfamiliar with labels about food allergies. Instead, it's likely that such foods will carry alerts such as "people allergic to fish should be cautious about eating this."