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Food allergies and perceptions towards food allergen labelling in Mauritius

Soogali, Nabiilah Bibi, Soon, Jan Mei
Food control 2018 v.93 pp. 144-149
allergenicity, allergens, analysis of variance, eggs, fish, food allergies, food labeling, food supply chain, foods, ingredients, issues and policy, peanuts, questionnaires, shellfish, stakeholders, supermarkets, surveys, Mauritius, Sub-Saharan Africa
There remains a paucity of research in food allergies in Sub-saharan Africa. It is the aim of this study to determine the self-reported prevalence of food allergies and consumers’ perceptions towards food allergen labelling in Mauritius. A survey was conducted in four supermarkets in the Municipalities of Vacoas-Phoenix, Quatre-Bornes and Moka during the period of September to November 2017. The questionnaire was designed based on previous studies and administered using a face-to-face interview approach to increase completion rate. Descriptive analysis and one-way ANOVA between subjects design were conducted. Shellfish was reported as the most common causative agent followed by fish, egg and peanut. Respondents were satisfied with the current font size and general information provided in food labels. Respondents agreed that it could be problematic to identify suitable foods for individuals suffering from food allergies or intolerances. Variations of PAL statements and generic terms provided in food labels, and location of allergy warnings were cause for concern. More than 80% of the respondents felt that allergens in ingredient list should be emphasised (e.g. bold font) and plain English or French language should be used to describe allergenic ingredients. The findings in this study provide practical insights on food allergen labelling issues for policy makers and stakeholders in the food supply chain. Determining the prevalence of food allergies in the country will inform policy makers to consider adding shellfish and other major allergenic ingredients to the list of ingredients requiring mandatory allergen warning label in Mauritius.