A new allergy-aware food standard is to be launched early next year by the Anaphylaxis Campaign in a bid to counter over-use of the 'may contain...' tag.

The charity, which represents the interests of allergy sufferers, is consulting with the industry over a recognised certification scheme it hopes will improve consumer confidence in information.

A spokeswoman said the charity was concerned consumers could not make informed decisions about allergenic risks when purchasing food because warnings were so ubiquitous.

"The biggest issue of food labelling is having 'may contain' written on packets. We have even seen a 'may contain traces of nuts' on a cabbage. This standard is about risk management. It is a proposal to create measures that can be used by manufacturers and retailers to go through certain hoops and say they have taken every necessary precaution in terms of allergen control."

The consultation is involving big players such as Sainsbury's and M&S and ends on 30 November.

The spokeswoman said: "The feedback has been good so far, but there are things we still need to tweak, such as whether we have a logo on products that are approved. We need to get the standard accredited and hope for a launch in February."

Kevin Swoffer, head of technical services at the British Retail Consortium, which is also involved in the consultation, said: "We have been sent the draft standard and have circulated it to our members. We have yet to come to any conclusions as it's quite a complex matter and there are a number of issues that are open for discussion. But that's all part of the consultation."

A spokeswoman for the Food and Drink Federation said: "On 'may contain' advisory labelling, our consistent message has been that such advice should only be given where there is a real and demonstrable risk of traces of a major allergen being present.It should never be devalued by use as an insurance policy where there is no risk."

n Research commissioned by Allergy UK found that three quarters of people discovered to have food intolerances were able to solve chronic health problems by not eating certain foods.