What level of protection are we aiming for?

We know that aiming for zero risk from unintended allergens for food‐allergic people is not realistic, yet to-date there is no consensus about what level of risk is acceptable.

In a recent journal article, a collective of experts in this field said that without agreement on acceptable risk, it remains difficult to set quantitative limits to manage that risk and protect allergic consumers effectively. They maintain that a lack of regulation in this area largely explains why allergic consumers continue to find Precautionary Allergen Labelling confusing and cannot rely on it.

A great deal of work on allergen risk assessment has been undertaken in the last two decades, including the development of the Allergen Bureau’s VITAL® Program and collation of the scientific data that sits behind it. Such activities have helped in characterising the risks associated with unintended allergens in food for people with varying degrees of allergen sensitivity. Areas have also been identified where additional knowledge and validated data was needed before criteria could be set and measured against.

To move things forward, the article’s authors have proposed a robust framework for approaches to defining tolerable risks. They believe sufficient knowledge now exists to implement the framework and achieve consensus regarding threshold levels that are realistic, attainable, and provide optimal protection for people with food allergy.

Reference: Madsen et al. 2020. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology

DOI: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2020.104751 

Allergen Bureau note: Co-authors Geert F Houben, Joseph Baumert, and René W R Crevel are members of the VITAL Scientific Expert Panel. See VITAL Science.