Undeclared life-threatening ingredients in imported products

Potentially deadly undeclared substances have been found in almost half of the food products bought and tested by researchers from James Cook University.

The killer in imported products

Potentially deadly undeclared substances were found in almost half of the imported food products bought and tested by researchers from James Cook University (JCU) as part of a study into food safety.

The allergans were in 50 packaged food items sourced from Asian grocery stores in Melbourne. They included egg, gluten, milk and peanut, some in very high concentrations, according to a study published in the Food Additives & Contaminants journal.

Forty-six per cent of the products analysed contained ingredients not listed on the labels and 18 per cent of the products contained more than one undeclared allergen.

Products from China contained the highest number of detectable, undeclared allergens, followed by Thailand and South Korea.

Study lead Andreas Lopata, head of JCU’s molecular allergy research laboratory, said that while Australia has strict food labelling laws, standards were more lax in Asian countries.

“That’s of concern, with Australian imports from ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries increasing from 18 to 23 per cent from 2002 to 2012, and the food trade from Asia to Australia continuing to increase by about 2.5 per cent each year,” he said.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand says that most food allergies are caused by peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sesame seeds, fish and shellfish, soy, lupin and wheat.

“These must be declared whenever they are present in food as ingredients (or as components of food additives or processing aids), however small the amounts present.

“Some foods and food ingredients or their components can cause severe allergic reactions including anaphylaxis.”

Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia says that food allergies in Australia are estimated to affect one to two per cent of adults and four to eight per cent of children under five. Recent data indicates that 10 per cent of children aged under one have a proven food allergy.

Between 2005 and 2012, hospital admissions for food-induced acute allergic reactions spiked by 150 per cent.

The New Daily reports that the number of food products recalled due to allergens not being identified on the label has been steadily increasing over the past decade.

Of the 100 food recalls in 2018, 46 cases were for undeclared allergens and 20 were due to ‘microbial contamination’ caused by potentially life-threatening bugs such as listeria, salmonella and E. coli.

Prof. Lopata says: “With the increasing number of food recalls and anaphylaxis recorded in Australia, it’s very important that further action continues in the area of food allergen labelling for the protection of allergic consumers here.”

Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia chief executive Maria Said says that her organisation has been telling [allergy sufferers] to be cautious of foods imported from Asian countries for many years.

“When you look at the number of food recalls, and how many involve imported foods, it’s concerning.

“If you’re going to use an imported food …do due diligence and try to find out how it’s made.”

Ms Said says the JCU research reinforced the message that people must be cautious.

“Foods imported from Asian countries, where many people don’t understand Australian labelling regulation, are fraught with danger,” she says.

“Australians make presumptions that the food label is correct. But we’ve found that’s not true.

“We need to get better at making sure that those who import food understand our laws.”

Ms Said referred to the case of a 10-year-old Melbourne boy who died from an anaphylactic reaction in 2013 after drinking coconut milk imported from Taiwan. The product, Green Time Natural Coconut Drink, was recalled a month after the boy’s death, after it was found to contain undeclared dairy products.

Ms Said says that while Australia has strong labelling laws, “our policing of imported products is not so good”.

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    6th Dec 2019
    Food Standards Australia New Zealand says that additives MUST be declared. The normal BS we hear from regulators of all manner in this country.
    WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT? Ban imports? No. Take offending wholesalers to court? No. Fine retail outlets who stock the offending products? No.

    This is just the next talk fest. A waste of time, just like nearly all of our regulators which provide jobs for bureaucrats who sit on their behind but refuse to do the job whilst being well paid. No wonder this country is a basket case.
    6th Dec 2019
    The Hospitality industry is also abysmally ignorant regarding crosscontamination and allergens - this can cost lives.
    6th Dec 2019
    I hope James Cook does a better job of this than their work on coral & the great barrier reef.
    6th Dec 2019
    6th Dec 2019
    All the companies and products should be named, and the name of what was found in the product. I am gluten/dairy/soy/canola oil free/cane sugar
    for health reasons. I avoid anything from China like the plague. However I do buy a lot of coconut milk mainly from Aldi, its says no additives. Used to buy coconut milk from one of the big supermarkets, similar blue label as above, then I noticed it was different, hey presto, they had added crap.

    Im also very dubious of anything that says product of New Zealand because I understand that products grown in China can come via the back door if they have something to do with New Zealand. I usually phone the company and ask questions.
    6th Dec 2019
    Re: country of origin, try and look for the ruler mark which indicates what percentage of the product is actually grown or produced in Australia. You see it on many products sold in Coles and Woolworths.

    Someone told me that a lot of Aldi products say "Made in Australia" but that just means they have been packed in Australia and they may be fully overseas products sourced in China or other countries and just repackaged here in an Australian facility. That's why they don't use the ruler.
    6th Dec 2019
    Silverhead, you are spot on. One would like to avoid anything from China (given their record with infant's milk, etc, etc), however the problem is that the food labelling does not tell if some of the ingredients are from China.
    aussiecarer, it is NOT enough to know what percentage is from Australia, that is clearly a bureaucratic cover-up approach being used to dud us all, as that doesn't tell us where the remaining ingredients came from. We need to know the countries of origin of all ingredients - must be all listed.
    27th May 2020
    aussiecarer the label needs to say "Product of Australia" and it needs to be 100% Australian.
    6th Dec 2019
    Ain't free trade a blast. The manufacturers just laugh. If the importeers and the food admin. boy (& girls to keep it non sexist) ain't gunna find it. Bad luck.

    Hey if they let out the perfect storm and get rid of all agriculture in the wide brown land (the current state) it'll be free trade all right.
    6th Dec 2019
    Imported food items that are contaminted and can produce illness and even death should not be allowed in our country, it is a travesty that China can send us garlic cultivated in human feces, infant milk contaminated with plastic substances and a thousand other products that should be rejected due to sanitary and health standards in any civilized country!Other countries als0o send us thier most dangerous food products, check and do hnot buy imports! WE have enough honey, fruits and vegs here and do not need to get anythiong that coud be dangerous to our health.
    Please all, be aware of cheaper products such as fish and seafood, frozen fruts and berries and many others, check carefully and do nt buy such products, they may be your death.
    6th Dec 2019
    What a joke. Coles and Woolies are in on it. Try to find much canned fish not imported from Thailand or China.

    This country and its government need a huge shake-up. Royal Commission into Government processes, policy making and accountability.
    8th Dec 2019
    Some clothing made in China are dyed, like windcheaters, have you ever wondered why out of the blue you got a skin rash on your neck or arms? Towels and face washers from Pakistan are dyed and notoriously continue releasing the dye on contact with water , wonder why you get skin rash?
    9th Dec 2019
    Toxic cheap chemicals.
    9th Dec 2019
    Another reason to avoid packaged "dead" food, use wholefoods which are grown and packaged in Australia as much as possible.
    9th Dec 2019
    I queried with Aldi why their bacon was overseas and wanted to know the countries. They told me it was three countries supplying pork products, Canada, USA and Demark. When I lived in UK, Denmark for bacon was good. Dont know about Canada. However, very unhappy abut USA because they are the worst country for additives, lying in general, pigs probably kept inside, and they dont care if meat glyphosate contaminated. So this is why Aldi say they cannot put country of manufacture, personally I think they should define it better.
    Be very careful of storing bacon. 2 years ago, I had a different brand of smoked bacon, packaged from a big store, from Q'land. I felt unwell after eating it, and was in bed for a week. I did not know what had caused the sickness. On getting better, I looked for something to eat in the fridge, and went for the Bacon, got terrible pains within half hour and was very sick for a week, lost weight, had to be hospitalised,as in the last days I could not drink. Of course once I had eaten the bacon, I knew what had caused my sickness the first time. the bacon did not smell, I always buy smoked bacon so thats all I could smell.
    The packaging on all bacon says, eat after 4 days, so dont be like me and think because its smoked it wont go off or be contaminated. I did get stool tested but they could not come up wth anything. After the 2nd lot of poisoning, I got a wry neck which is very common after eating pork, I went to a chiropractor who over adjusted me, and twisted my already sore neck, so I was in agony for a further 7 months. Be very careful of bacon and how long it should last!
    28th May 2020
    It seems we cannot trust anyone in any industry in this country! The authorities in charge of inspecting and regulate the products we consume are, obviously, non existent or very inadequate and the stores that sell food products to us are not concerned with the safety of the products for the consumer.
    I bought sonme Easter eggs from the K Mart, that is before Easter early in April. I had those delivered before Easter and they were given to my family, as intended and consumned by everyone by Easter time. This is something unbelivable, I just got an email from K Mart telling me they were recalling those products because they had been found to contain toxic substances like plastic!. A month after! Incredible.
    I really would like to do something about this and will. Here is the email they sent me:
    From: Kmart Online Shop
    Subject: Product Recall - Kmart Online Order: 42380560
    Date: 22 May 2020 at 5:09:48 pm AWST

    Dear customer:

    We are writing to you today to advise you of a product safety recall that we have on the following products:

    Solid/Filled Egg Bag 360g
    Caramel Egg Bag 160g (42720003 & 42719991)

    The recall is due to the potential presence of a foreign matter (plastic). The impacted product/s have a Best Before date of 21/02/2021.

    From our records we can see that you purchased this product. We kindly ask that you do not consume this product, and return it to a Kmart store as soon as possible, where a team member will provide you with a full refund. Please note that a receipt of proof of purchase will not be required.

    We will continue our commitment to the quality and safety of our product ranges, and we sincerely apologise to our customers for any inconvenience this recall may have caused.

    If you would like further information on this recall, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Support Team on 1800 124 125.

    Team Kmart. ______________________________________________________________________
    This email and any attachments may contain privileged and confidential
    information and are intended for the named addressee only. If you have
    received this e-mail in error, please notify the sender and delete
    this e-mail immediately. Any confidentiality, privilege or copyright
    is not waived or lost because this e-mail has been sent to you in
    error. It is your responsibility to check this e-mail and any
    attachments for viruses. No warranty is made that this material is
    free from computer virus or any other defect or error. Any
    loss / damage incurred by using this material is not the sender's
    responsibility. The sender's entire liability will be limited to
    resupplying the material.

    28th May 2020
    That is shocking, we certainly do need more product checking, if you buy overseas made food you are taking a risk because their quality control is not as strict as Australia. Good luck with your fight, they need to compensate people who may have got sick from this or cause health issues further down the track.

    Tags: food, nutrition, health,

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles