Final report for the iFAAM project highlights progress

The Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management (iFAAM) project set out to develop evidence-based approaches and tools for management of allergens in food, and to use this knowledge to help food allergic consumers manage their condition. A final report for the project has recently been published, summarising the achievements in five key areas.

The four years duration iFAAM project was carried out by 43 partner organisations from 19 countries, including 14 EU member states, Iceland, Switzerland, Turkey, the USA and Australia. iFAAM drew a diverse range of experts together, including clinical researchers, basic scientists, psychologists, mathematicians and computer scientists.

Key achievements fall under the banners of: early life nutrition and allergy; risk factors and severity; risk models; analysis of allergens in foods and; food allergy and allergen management knowledge base.

Studies within the iFAAM project have shown the vast majority of young European children with confirmed hen’s egg or cow’s milk allergy became tolerant by early school age – but that allergies to peanut or tree nuts persisted. While introduction of peanut to the diet in early infancy appears successful in reducing development of childhood peanut allergy, current evidence on early egg introduction and egg allergy prevention is less clear and recent trials have reported contrasting results.

Tools produced to assist with the management of allergens in the food supply chain include an allergen tracking tool, as well as risk assessment plus risk mitigation matrices based on known levels of allergic protein that trigger reactions in the most sensitive consumers. At this stage there is only sufficient data to provide reliable reference doses for peanut, hazelnut, celery, shrimp, egg and cow’s milk. Much more data is required to develop reference doses for other food allergens.

Methods for the detection of allergens in food have continued to improve, with mass spectroscopy techniques able to screen multiple different allergens in a single assay. International proficiency testing of ELISA methods indicate that all immunoassay kits underestimated the level of peanut protein incurred in samples, with other studies showing wide variation of bioaccessiblity depending on the food matrix.

The full project summary can be accessed on the European Commission’s Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) website.