Australians with severe food allergies have been warned products imported from Asia are loaded with undeclared ingredients that can cause deadly reactions.
Scientists tested 50 packaged foods purchased from six Asian grocery stores in Melbourne, finding 46 per cent contained an allergen that wasn’t listed on the label.
Even worse, 18 per cent of the products contained multiple unlisted allergens.
Eggs, gluten, milk and peanuts were detected, sometimes in very high concentrations, in products including ready-made soups, crackers, biscuits and lollies.
Study leader Andreas Lopata, from James Cook University, says the findings are alarming for people with severe allergies, especially as food imports from Asia are steadily growing.
China was the source of products with the highest number of detectable, undeclared allergens, followed by Thailand and South Korea.
Prof Lopata says food labelling is well regulated in Australia but that isn’t true in some Asian countries.
With the food trade from Asia to Australia increasing by about 2.5 per cent each year, he says consumers need to understand the risks.
“With the increasing number of food recalls and anaphylaxis recorded in Australia its very important that further action continues in the area of food allergen labelling for the protection of allergic consumers here.
“Hospital admissions for food-induced acute allergic reactions rose by about 350 per cent in Australia between 1997 and 2005 and increased a further 150 per cent over the next seven years to 2012.”