Emoji characters for food allergens

William_J_G Overington wjgo_10009 at btinternet.com
Sat Jul 25 11:43:09 CDT 2015

Emoji characters for food allergens
An interesting document entitled
Preliminary proposal to add emoji characters for food allergens
by Hiroyuki Komatsu
was added into the UTC (Unicode Technical Committee) Document Register yesterday.
This is a welcome development.
I suggest that, in view of the importance of precision in conveying information about food allergens, that the emoji characters for food allergens should be separate characters from other emoji characters. That is, encoded in a separate quite distinct block of code points far away in the character map from other emoji characters, with no dual meanings for any of the characters: a character for a food allergen should be quite separate and distinct from a character for any other meaning.
I opine that having two separate meanings for the same character, one meaning as an everyday jolly good fun meaning in a text message and one meaning as a specialist food allergen meaning could be a source of confusion. Far better to encode a separate code block with separate characters right from the start than risk needless and perhaps medically dangerous confusion in the future.
I suggest that for each allergen that there be two characters.
The glyph for the first character of the pair goes from baseline to ascender.
The  glyph for the second character of the pair is a copy of the glyph for the first character of the pair augmented with a thick red line from lower left descender to higher right a little above the base line, the thick red line perhaps being at about thirty degrees from the horizontal. Thus the thick red line would go over the allergen part of the glyph yet just by clipping it a bit so that clarity is maintained.
The glyphs are thus for the presence of the allergen and the absence of the allergen respectively.
It is typical in the United Kingdom to label food packets not only with an ingredients list but also with a list of allergens in the food and also with a list of allergens not in the food.
For example, a particular food may contain soya yet not gluten.
Thus I opine that two characters are needed for each allergen.
I have deliberately avoided a total strike through at forty-five degrees as I opine that that could lead to problems distinguishing clearly the glyph for the absence of one allergen from the glyph for the absence of another allergen.
I have also wondered whether each glyph for an allergen should include within its glyph a number, maybe a three-digit number, so that clarity is precise.
I opine that two separate characters for each allergen is desirable rather than some solution such as having one character for each allergen and a combining strike through character. 
The two separate characters approach keeps the system straightforward to use with many software packages. The matter of expressing food allergens is far too important to become entangled in problems for everyday users.
For gluten, it might be necessary to have three distinct code points.
In the United Kingdom there is a legal difference between "gluten-free" and "no gluten-containing ingredients".
To be labelled gluten-free the product must have been tested. This is to ensure that there has been no cross-contamination of ingredients. For example, rice has no gluten, but was a particular load of rice transported in a lorry used for wheat on other days?
Yet testing is not always possible in a restaurant situation.
William Overington
25 July 2015
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