Department of Health

New laws come into force on food allergies

Published by Department of Health & Human Services

New laws requiring all Victorian hospitals to report cases of potentially fatal anaphylaxis come into force tomorrow, November 1.

Victoria's deputy Chief Health Officer, Dr Angie Bone said the legislative change is in response to the tragic death of a Victorian boy in 2013 who was allergic to dairy products.

"The boy died after drinking a can of imported coconut drink which failed to declare the presence of milk as an ingredient on its label - a breach of Australian food labelling law," Dr Bone said.

"From tomorrow all Victorian public and private hospitals will be required to notify the Department of Health and Human Services when people present to hospital with anaphylaxis, regardless of the likely cause.

"This will include anaphylaxis caused by the consumption of food - whether in the home, from a food premises or from a potentially mislabelled packaged food.

"If the suspected cause of anaphylaxis is the consumption of a packaged food the notification is required immediately by telephone," Dr Bone said.

Other cases of anaphylaxis presentations are required to be made within five days of the initial diagnosis through an electronic online form.

Dr Bone said the new reporting system will allow a quick response to public health risks, such as those caused by incorrectly labelled packaged food.

"Acting in a timely manner will protect the Victorian public from preventable anaphylactic reactions, which have been on the rise since 1993.

"The primary purpose of the new anaphylaxis notification scheme is to allow the Department to take swift action where a notification reveals a broader public health risk.

"This action may include the recall of an offending food product from the marketplace to protect the public," Dr Bone said.

Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction and is potentially fatal. In 2016-2017 more than 2,440 people presented to Victorian public hospitals with anaphylaxis. Of those, food-related anaphylaxis made up for nearly half the cases.

In addition, the data collected will also enable the department to better understand the incidence of anaphylaxis in Victoria and to inform public health policy, interventions and research.

A guide to assist Victorian public and private hospitals to understand and act on their statutory obligations is available from health.vic's Anaphylaxis notifications section.

Reviewed 31 October 2018


Contact details

Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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