Making the world safer for those with food allergy

A group of world renowned food allergy experts, convened by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, have collaborated to publish a consensus report examining the critical issues in food allergy. An article summarising the key findings from the report has been published with open access in the journal Pediatrics.

Article authors Scott Sicherer, Katie Allen, Gideon Lack, and Steve Taylor were members of the larger international committee who worked together to evaluate current scientific evidence on the prevalence, diagnosis, prevention, and management of food allergy, and made recommendations to improve safety for those affected.

From a food industry perspective, important recommendations in the report revolve around improved food labelling. According to the authors, the current status of labelling is often confusing for allergic consumers. They cite various conflicting labelling requirements around the world, including in the United States where lychee is erroneously considered a nut by the FDA (when botanically it is actually a fruit). Other allergens, such as sesame, are not included in US labelling laws and yet it is included in other countries – including Australia and New Zealand.

Further confusion for consumers has been generated by precautionary or ‘may contain’ labelling. Because this level of labelling is voluntary and not yet regulated in any country, inconsistencies have arisen with the way in which precautionary labelling is used. Some studies have shown consumers tend to misinterpret or ignore these labels.

The committee provided a number of recommendations directed toward the FDA to improve labelling and create a system in which precautionary labelling is meaningful. They refer to the Allergen Bureau’s Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling (VITAL®) Program as a risk-based labelling system that could be considered by the FDA.

Given the increasing prevalence of food allergy, particularly amongst children, the ‘immediately obtainable’ practice goals and longer term research goals set out in the National Academies report will serve as a useful roadmap for numerous stakeholders as we work to improve food safety for allergic consumers.

Co-authors Professors Katie Allen and Steve Taylor are both members of the Allergen Bureau VITAL Scientific Expert Panel. Refer VITAL Science.

Reference: Sicherer et al. 2017 Pediatrics. Vol. 140(2) e20170194 DOI: 10. 1542/ peds. 2017- 0194

Download the article here.