GS1 UK tests next-generation barcodes to support people with allergies

Statistics show that mislabelled or unclear food packaging has caused reactions in 56% of people with allergies, while 23% suffered from multiple reactions.
GS1 UK tests next-generation barcodes to support people with allergies
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Statistics show that mislabelled or unclear food packaging has caused reactions in 56% of people with allergies, while 23% suffered from multiple reactions.

New GS1 UK research found that seven out of ten people do not feel secure when they eat food which they did not cook themselves. This anxiety stems from inaccurate and ambiguous labelling such as “may contain” and inconsistency across products. 

In order to protect customers with special dietary requirements, GS1 UK is testing next-generation barcodes – a fusion of the linear barcode and a QR code. Thanks to these barcodes, customers will be able to access trusted product data at stores across the UK.

This data is connected to the product’s unique identity and can be updated in real time, making allergen information not only more accurate and accessible, but more extensive than what would fit on ordinary product packaging.

Sarah Knight, parent of two children with food allergies and CEO at The Allergy Team, which supports families, schools and businesses to manage allergies, commented on GS1 UK’s research:

The widespread use of next-generation QR codes on food packaging could provide the transparency needed for those with allergies to make better informed decisions. It would allow brands to provide greater clarity on what phrases like ‘may contain nuts’ mean. For example, was the item made on a production line with nuts or was it made in a separate part of the factory which reduces the risk of contamination? Details like this could save lives – and will no doubt alleviate huge anxiety for people with food allergies and their families.” 

The research found people with allergies would like to see the following information: 

  • Full list of ingredients (57%) 
  • Allergens (56%) 
  • Health and nutritional information (41%)
  • Details on precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) like 'may contain' (37%)

Labelling of vegan products is not included in food law, so it may still contain animal products. According to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) research, one in three vegan products on sale include milk and egg.

The reasonable opinion of the customers is that if the label says “free from” the product has to be completely free from specific ingredients such as nuts, dairy, or gluten.

You can read all the findings of GS1 UK's research here.

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