"Over-cautious" allergen warnings from supermarkets and manufacturers are putting the health of consumers at risk because many do not believe them.

That was the message from allergy advisors this week, who said ahead of an FSA report on allergen labelling, due out later this year, that product labels 'crying wolf' about nut or peanut content encouraged consumer complacency.

New FSA data from 32 nut and peanut allergy patients anonymously visiting UK supermarkets shows shoppers are struggling to assess risk when buying products that may contain nuts because of warnings that "appear unnecessarily".

Hazel Gowland, food adviser for the Anaphylaxis Campaign, said that while cast-iron guarantees were not possible for manufacturers where foods containing nuts and nut-free products were made at the same site, the industry should do more to clarify guidelines.

"Every retailer wants their product to look different, but a more qualitative and quantitative approach could be adopted by retailers and manufacturers across the board," she said. "Ideally packaging needs a description of why the product may contain nuts not just that it does in decent-sized writing in a prominent place."

Allergy consultant Dr Adam Fox said the ambiguity risked turning a serious health issue into a subject of ridicule. "There are videos on YouTube mocking over-cautious labelling. I am impressed with the work being done to cater for people living with allergies but for sufferers, ambiguity is more than just a bugbear, it's their life."