How to prevent accidental exposure to food allergens

People with food allergy are always assessing risk and taking steps to avoid exposure to products that may cause them harm. Unfortunately, many lack the necessary information and education needed to do this effectively and accidental exposures to food allergens are not uncommon. Researchers in Portugal have conducted a review of what they maintain are practical approaches that can be taken to education and accidental exposure prevention in relation to three common lifestyle activities.

The review addresses and sets out recommendations for each activity separately: shopping; eating out (at schools, family and friend’s places, and restaurants); and travelling. The recommendations are focused especially on proper reading of food labels and communicating to key staff in restaurants and airplanes.

Within their recommendations, the authors also call for a stronger commitment from the food industry in order to re-establish credibility of precautionary allergen labelling. They state that widespread use of precautionary labelling is frequently reported, and it is known to both limit the choices for food allergic individuals and make it harder to find important allergen information on food labels.

Other strategies suggested in the review to ensure the well-being of food-allergic consumers include the development of ‘adapted recipes’, as well as the creation of ‘specialized restaurants’. The authors also suggest the creation of food products that suit food-allergic individual’s demands, especially those aimed to be consumed by children will help to keep people safe from accidental allergen exposure.

Greater training for restaurants, schools, food industry and aircraft staff is also recommended in the review, as well as an overall greater community awareness of food allergy.

Reference: Pádua et al. 2016 European annals of allergy and clinical immunology Vol. 48(5) Pp 174-81. This is an Open Access paper.