, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 165-188,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 27 Feb 2009

“May Contain” Labelling: Adequate Consumer Warning or Unnecessarily Defensive Manufacturer Behaviour?


This article answers two questions concerning the liability aspects of the use of “may contain” labelling on food packages, such as “This product may contain traces of nuts.” This type of voluntary labelling refers to the unintentional presence of an allergenic foodstuff, the inclusion of which can occur during the production process. Firstly, it is probable that courts consider a food product without a “may contain” warning defective under the Directive, even though this can create unintended consequences. This question is approached in terms of a defect both in design and in warning, since food manufacturers are able to reduce the risk by means of redesigning the production process or by providing a warning. With regard to the second liability question concerning the adequacy of “may contain” warnings, it is not likely that courts will consider the product warning defective in view of the difficulty of providing a better alternative.