By Allergen Bureau

Allergy Experts Review Current Food Allergy Issues

Eminent global researchers based in the US have published a mini-review that illustrates the many dimensions of life that are impacted among those with food allergy. Summarising findings from a breadth of current literature, they present how food allergy affects social, psychological, and economic-related quality of life, and include discussion of the impact of precautionary allergen labelling (PAL).

In the United States, food allergy reportedly impacts approximately 8 per cent of children and 11 per cent of adults, with 42 percent of children who experience severe food allergic reactions reporting at least one lifetime visit to the Emergency Department caused by their allergic condition.

Practically any food can invoke an allergic response, however the US regulations recognise the top nine food allergens, being peanuts, milk, shellfish, tree nuts, eggs, finfish, wheat, soy, and sesame. In early life, milk is the most common allergen, impacting 53 per cent of children <1 year old; in adolescence, peanuts are the most common impacting 29.5 per cent of children >14 years old; and once individuals reach adulthood, shellfish is the most common allergy, impacting 2.9 per cent of adults.

The review authors maintain there is little regulation on food labels, specifically when it comes to PAL such as “may contain” or “manufactured on shared equipment” statements. A study that assessed consumer understanding of PALs was cited, in which over half of those surveyed reported that current labelling practices interfered with their daily lives, with more information on the meaning behind PALs needed. In addition, 27 per cent of respondents reported themselves or a family member having an allergic reaction after eating a food item with a PAL statement.

Recognising the public health burden of food allergy is complex and multifaceted, the authors call for the implementation of clear policies to ensure clarity and consistency of PALs and the safety of food allergic consumers.

Reference: Sansweet et al. 2024. Food allergy issues among consumers: a comprehensive review. Frontiers in Nutrition. DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2024.1380056. Available with Open Access.

Additional Reporting: Food allergies’ broad impact on quality of life demands greater awareness.