By Allergen Bureau

FSA blog summarises 2nd Food Hypersensitivity Symposium proceedings

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) held the second Food Hypersensitivity Symposium in March 2021. The event was attended by over 120 delegates, bringing together consumer groups, industry, enforcement agencies and clinical experts to discuss how best to manage risks for the food hypersensitive consumer.

According to the event summary posted on the official blog of the FSA, a panel of speakers covered food hypersensitivity from several different perspectives including that of food producers, manufacturers and restaurants, parents of children with food allergies, and people with food allergies themselves.

Representing the food manufacturer’s point of view, Iain Mortimer, Group Technical Manager, Apetito Ltd spoke about Precautionary Allergy Labelling (PAL). He highlighted the delicate balance between getting the reference dose right to ensure safety for consumers with food hypersensitivity while not reducing consumer choice or unnecessarily increasing pressure on businesses.

Daniel Kelly, podcast host and founder of allergy awareness blog, May Contain, shared his experience of managing anxiety when eating out with a food allergy, and The Allergy Team’s Sarah Knight, who is a parent of children with allergies, described the huge impact that food hypersensitivity can have on people’s lives.

Both Sarah and Daniel shared their thoughts on how a culture of inclusion and improving empathy for the challenges food hypersensitive consumers face can be achieved. This could be by starting the dialogue about allergies and by showing that businesses take allergies seriously.

Many spoke of the need for a cultural shift that sees everybody throughout the food chain understanding food allergies and knowing what role they play in ensuring safety and choice, rather than viewing allergen management as an inconvenience or added expense.

Two workshops, on Precautionary Allergy Labelling and the Food Allergy Safety Scheme, were held as part of the event. FSA is now assessing the outcomes from these workshops for publication at a later date. With respect to PAL, this will include a formal stakeholder consultation, planned for the end of 2021 or early 2022, to improve understanding and inform FSA policy development.