Using food consumption estimates when calculating food allergy risk

When a person has an allergic reaction, the amount of the offending food they have consumed is one of the factors that determines the severity of their reaction. When food producers assess the risk from unintended allergen presence in a food product, this food consumption data is an important consideration; however there has previously been no consensus on how to use food consumption data for this purpose.

For the first time, allergy, immunology and analytical experts from around the world have carried out sensitivity analysis to establish the optimal food consumption estimate for a deterministic food allergy risk assessment. The point estimate can be used for deriving Action Levels using the ‘Create a VITAL Action Level Grid Report’ functionality in VITAL® Online – the Allergen Bureau web-based VITAL Calculator

Exposure was calculated for consumption percentiles (50th percentile, P50 to maximum) using the iFAAM consumption database in conjunction with an allergen concentration range from 1 to 1000 ppm. The resulting allergen intakes were compared to the allergic population reference doses (the amount of an allergen that would elicit a response in the allergic population) that have been proposed previously for 10 major allergenic foods.

The 75th percentile was deemed to be the optimal point estimate for use in deterministic food allergy risk assessment. It was found to meet the safety objective and be adequately conservative for a public health context.

The authors note that their analysis has been based on the fairly narrow range of food consumption databases used in the iFAAM project – those from Denmark, France and The Netherlands. In order to develop more globally applicable consumption reference amounts for food products, they suggest other national food consumption databases be developed and made available for allergen risk assessment.

They also maintain future studies need to broaden their scope to include not only other Western dietary surveys (US, Canada, Australia, etc), but also Asian dietary surveys (China, Japan, etc), and others. Subpopulations such as infants, children, teenagers and adults could also be analysed for possible differences when data are available.

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Reference: Blom et al. 2018. Food Chemistry and Toxicology. DOI: 10.1016/j.fct.2019.01.025.

Authors Joe Baumert, René Crevel, Steve Taylor and Geert Houben are members of the Allergen Bureau VITAL Scientific Expert Panel (VSEP). See VITAL Science Authors Marty Blom and Ben Remington support and contribute to the VSEP.