The Scientific Committee of the Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) has recently issued an Opinion on reference doses for food allergens.
Legal thresholds or reference doses for food allergens are yet to be set by any country. In the absence of legal notification thresholds or reference doses, risk evaluation of allergens within FASFC is currently based on the Australia and New Zealand, risk assessment tool the ‘Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling’ (VITAL® Program).
The VITAL Program Version 2.0 has been developed over the past decade by the Allergen Bureau with the support of the food industry. More recently, the Dutch Bureau for Risk Assessment and Research Programming (BuRO) of the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) in The Netherlands proposed alternative reference doses that are, for most allergens, 10 times lower than the VITAL® 2.0 Reference Doses (see VITAL Science).
The reference doses proposed for Belgium by the FASFC Scientific Committee relate to the allergens of eggs, peanuts, milk, soybeans, nuts (hazelnut, walnut, cashew and other nuts), lupin, mustard, shrimp, wheat (with extension to other cereals containing gluten) and sesame seeds. The Scientific Committee maintains they could not propose reference doses for crustaceans, molluscs, fish and celery due to insufficient scientific data.
The Opinion has been issued to provide information that will assist with managing risks arising from the presence of allergens in food and will be revised as and when new evidence comes to light. Notwithstanding the reference doses proposed, the authors stress the use of precautionary allergen labelling should be minimised through a proactive allergen management system.