Dec 2013 News Round Up

In this December edition of Allergen Bureau eNews we introduce new VITAL trainers, as well as bring you the latest industry news from the US investigation into food allergen recalls through to modification to the gulten-free threshold for foods. Click here to subscribe to our eNews

Should soy allergic consumers avoid wheat too?

Current food labelling laws in the United States do not require allergen labelling declarations on raw agricultural commodities that have allergens present due to co-mingling. Professor Steve Taylor and his team at the University of Nebraska’s FARRP have sought to determine the level of risk soy allergic consumers are exposed to by the co-mingling of soy in wheat.

Detectable soybean residues (>2.5ppm soy flour) were found in 63 per cent of the commercially available wheat flours tested, with concentrations of between 1.6ppm and 236ppm soy protein. The authors conducted conservative probabilistic risk assessments and predicted a risk of allergic reaction among the most sensitive soy-allergic individuals of 2.8±2.0 per 1000 soy-allergic user eating occasions of foods containing wheat flour. Further to this, the predicted reactions occur at exposure levels below the lowest eliciting dose observed to provoke objective reactions in clinical oral soy challenges.

In correlating their findings with clinical reports which indicate a lack of allergic reactions to undeclared soy in wheat-based products, the authors concluded that a rather low degree of risk is posed by wheat-based products that are comingled with soy. Because of this, the avoidance of wheat-based products by soy-allergic consumers does not appear to be necessary.

Reference: Remington et al. 2013. Food and Chemical Toxicology. Vol 62. pp. 485-91. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2013.09.013

More VITAL® Training Providers

VITAL Allergen BureauWith growing international and local interest in the Allergen Bureau Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling VITAL® system we are pleased to announce that three new Training Providers have been endorsed to deliver VITAL® training.

Mrs Waiman Ip Min Wan is based in Mauritius and is willing to deliver training in the Indian Ocean region, India, South East Asia – Thailand, Hong Kong, Africa (depending on the country) and the UK. This represents a significant geographic expansion in the availability of VITAL® training.

Based in Australia and New Zealand, respectively, we welcome Correct Training Systems and Safe n Sure Solutions as VITAL® Training Providers. For a full list of endorsed VITAL® Training Providers click here.

Peanut residues hard to detect in caramel food colouring

When conducting routine analysis for peanut residue in food products, scientists at the Food Allergy Research & Resource Program, University of Nebraska, were surprised to gain positive results for a dark liquid caramel colour using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) methods. Further investigation showed this was a false positive, and they sought to determine the reliability of commercially available peanut allergen ELISA methods for this sample type.

The production of caramel involves ingredients and chemical processes that would not ordinarily include any traces of peanut residue. A range of caramel colour samples were tested using six commercially available quantitative and qualitative peanut ELISA kits. Some samples were spiked with a known concentration of peanut protein.

A false positive detection of peanut protein was found in class IV caramel colours. Class IV caramel colours are the most widely produced caramel colours, and are commonly found in colas. The authors caution that ELISA methods are not reliable for the detection of peanut in class IV caramel ingredients and their use is not recommended with this matrix.

Reference: Stelk et al. 2013. Journal of Food Science. Vol. 78(7) pp. T1091-3. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12146.

Investigation into High Number of US Food Allergen Recalls

Food allergen recalls continue to occur at a high rate in the United States, with allergen labelling problems being the most common cause of recalls for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-regulated food products. To help understand why, USFDA researchers have assessed information on each food allergen recall that occurred between 2007 and 2012 that is held within the FDA recall database.

For each food allergen recall on record, the information was analysed to identify the food, allergen, root cause, and mode of discovery. The key findings can be summarised as follows:

  • Bakery products were the most frequently recalled food type
  • Milk was the most frequently undeclared major food allergen that caused a product recall
  • Use of the wrong package or label was the most frequent problem leading to food allergen recalls.

The study was the first to highlight the importance of label and package controls within the food manufacturing environment as public health measures.

Reference: Gendel & Zhu. 2013. Journal of Food Protection. Vol. 76(11) pp. 1933-8. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-13-171.

Modifying the gluten-free threshold for foods

Earlier this year, the US FDA raised the allowable level of gluten detectable in foods labelled as ‘gluten free’ to 20ppm, once again bringing more focus to this issue in Australia. On this subject, Dr Geoffrey Forbes, a gastroenterologist at the Royal Perth Hospital, wrote a letter to the editor of the Medical Journal of Australia outlining the importance of ‘doing no harm’ in health care.

In Australia, the gluten free label can only be applied to products that have no detectable gluten using standard detection methods. With analytical test methods becoming increasingly sensitive, there is a high risk that many products will no longer meet the strict labelling criteria, resulting in very few products bearing the gluten free label.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has made an application to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) for a change to the definition of ‘gluten free’, so that that product containing minute traces of gluten, at less than 20ppm (0.002%), could still be defined as gluten free.

Dr Forbes believes that it may be prudent to allow an increase in “measurable” gluten (eg, from undetectable to < 1–3 ppm) present in gluten free foods. However, in his letter he maintained that increasing the level of gluten allowed in a product labelled ‘gluten free’ (from undetectable to < 20 ppm) will increase the overall amount of gluten ingested by consumers. He concluded that for an undetermined proportion of patients with coeliac disease, this will lead to adverse health outcomes and generate additional health care costs.

Reference: Forbes, G. 2013. Medical Journal of Australia. Vol 199(6). doi: 10.5694/mja13.10922 (Available on open access).

Talking allergen management at INFORMA

The Allergen Bureau recently participated in the 15th INFORMA Food Regulations and Labelling Standards Conference in Sydney, Rob Sherlock (DTS FACTA), gave a presentation on the challenges of allergen management and together with VITAL co coordinator Georgina Christensen from the Allergen Bureau conducted a workshop that looked the challenges that regulators and corporate policy makers experience in the setting up allergen management protocols and meeting national and international expectations.

The conference was well attended by a range of food industry stakeholders incorporating state and federal regulators and compliance managers along with senior members of the food industry along with Dr Geoffrey Annison of the AFGC. Key issues raised included the current regulatory frameworks across the food production chain, The Health Star Rating system, country of -Origin Labelling and the significant issue of Harmonisation of standards and developing consistency in compliance and regulatory implementation.

The conference provided an opportunity for key decision makers to discuss the impact of these issues on the food industry and provided a forum for robust discussion.

At a time when the food industry is under a significant economic pressure , the opportunity to discuss these crucial issues and to work towards a harmonised approach with the key stakeholders was invaluable. Read more…