By Allergen Bureau

What are the key priorities for food hypersensitivity research?

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has conducted the first known priority setting exercise to identify unanswered food hypersensitivity research questions. Food hypersensitivity includes food allergy, coeliac disease and food intolerance.

Following UK-wide public consultation that resulted in 295 responses, 15 indicative questions were identified and prioritised by a range of stakeholders, representing food businesses, patient groups, healthcare and academia, local authorities and the FSA.

Using an adaptation of existing priority-setting methods, 10 priority uncertainties in evidence were drafted, from which 16 research questions were developed. These could be summarised under the following 5 themes:

  1. Communication of allergens both within the food supply chain and then to the end-consumer (ensuring trust in allergen communication)
  2. The impact of socioeconomic factors on consumers with food hypersensitivity
  3. Drivers of severe reactions
  4. Mechanism(s) underlying loss of tolerance in food hypersensitivity
  5. The risks posed by novel allergens/processing.

Diagnosis and treatment of food hypersensitivity were not considered, and other questions that were out of scope or where FSA was already commissioning research were also excluded from the priority-setting exercise.

The 15 questions that were identified and prioritised can be accessed in the Food Standards Agency Science Council Working Group 5 Update Paper, published online in December 2020.

Reference: Turner et al. 2021 Journal of Clinical and Experimental Allergy. DOI: 10.1111/cea.13983