An estimated 4 per cent of adults and 8 per cent of children in the 380 million EU population suffer from food allergies, according to the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients' Associations.
And as figures rise, new European legislation in power next month brings in considerable legal requirements to curb the risk for food allergy sufferers.
Directive 2003/89/EC, amending Directive 2000/13, ends the 20 year old '25 per cent' rule and heralds the mandatory inclusion on food labels of the most common food allergen ingredients and their derivatives.
Cereals containing gluten, fish, crustaceans, egg, peanut, soybeans, milk and dairy products including lactose, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seed, and sulphites must all be labelled.
Dealing with at least the major serious food allergens is an essential part of Good Manufacturing Practice, says the IFST in a summary of its information statement.
On a punctual basis the IFST provides food scientists with information, advisory and policy statements, for general information and guidance, as well as to express 'expert professional interpretation and opinion, on important food-related issues'.
This latest information statement, that updates a 1999 version, concentrates on food allergies.
The independent group asserts that the "greatest care must be taken by food manufacturers to formulate foods so as to avoid, wherever possible, inclusion of unnecessary major allergens as ingredients."
In addition, food makers must "organise raw material supplies, production, production schedules and cleaning procedures so as to prevent cross-contact of products by "foreign" allergens".
The IFST also refers to training of all personnel" in an understanding of necessary measures and the reasons for them."
Industry must also comply with the relevant labelling legislation providing appropriate warning, to potential purchasers, of the presence of a major allergen in a product.
Finally, to" have in place an appropriate system for recall of any product found to contain a major allergen not indicated on the label. "
The full policy statement can be accessed here.