Dispatches from IFT 2014

Food allergies remain 'major' public health issue

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Every year in the US 100-150 people die from food allergy incidences - something that is 'preventable', says a scientific expert on allergens
Every year in the US 100-150 people die from food allergy incidences - something that is 'preventable', says a scientific expert on allergens

Related tags Allergy Food allergy

Peanuts, wheat and egg are among several allergens that continue to be a global public health issue, and so industry must act with caution when developing allergen-free products, warns a scientific expert.

The ‘big eight’ food allergens – cows’ milk, tree nuts, peanut, egg, soybean, fish, shellfish and wheat – remain a significant problem for adults and children across the world. Estimates indicate that 6-5% of children and 3-4% of adults have some sort of food allergy and incident rates appear to be on the rise.

Joe Baumert, co-director of the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said this meant manufacturers had to develop allergen-free products with more caution than ever.

“When marketing allergen-free foods, the food industry has very little room for intolerance, because these symptoms can be quite substantial…There’s no treatment yet, other than avoidance,”​ he told attendees at an educational program on allergen-free foods at IFT 2014.

Symptoms, he said, were often severe - from skin reactions to intestinal and respiratory complications, and even cardiovascular issues and anaphylactic shock.

Deaths are preventable

Each year, there were between 100-150 deaths in the US associated with food allergies, he said, along with around 50,000 anaphylactic reactions; 2,000 of which caused hospitalization.

“Needless to say, I think it’s preventable, so we have to do what we can so we don’t have any deaths occurring,”​ he said.

“The company really has to sit down and decide what they mean by allergen-free. Is it specifically peanut-free, or allergen-free from the ‘big eight’ sense?”

The challenge, however, was truly monitoring and validating an entire production chain, from ingredients supply to processing and packing facilities, Baumert said.

Communication with suppliers was critical, he said.  “It becomes important to audit and have a good dialogue with that supplier; find out – do they have a documented allergen control program and guarantee? If so, what constitutes that? Do they check their suppliers?”

Importantly, he said any changes to supply had to be communicated immediately to the manufacturer.

The rise and rise of allergies

For children, Baumert said the primary allergen offenders were milk, egg and peanuts and adults tended to be allergic to peanuts, treenuts and shellfish.

The increase of incidences, he said, could be pinpointed to a number of factors.

Increased exposure, for example, or changes to processing could have contributed to the increase, he said. It could also be that diagnostics were better and consumer awareness stronger, he added.

“It seems there’s a legitimate increase but we don’t know what’s triggering it exactly. Likely, it’s multifactorial.” 

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Discover Premium Berry Ingredients from Fruit d’Or

Discover Premium Berry Ingredients from Fruit d’Or

Content provided by Fruit D'or | 09-Apr-2024 | Product Catalog

Fruit d'Or has supplied premium cranberries and wild blueberries to global commercial bakeries for over 20 years. Rooted in the philosophy of "better...

How Bakeries Improve Cost Efficiencies, Naturally

How Bakeries Improve Cost Efficiencies, Naturally

Content provided by Lesaffre | 09-Apr-2024 | White Paper

Bakeries today must do more with less, even as goals creep higher and higher. There’s less time, less staff, and less budget. But quality can’t decrease....

Enhance Food Safety with the Interceptor DF

Enhance Food Safety with the Interceptor DF

Content provided by Fortress Technology, Inc. | 04-Mar-2024 | Product Presentation

Tackling the unique challenges faced by confectionery manufacturers, the Interceptor DF metal detector surpasses all other systems on the market in identifying...

Related suppliers

1 comment

Thanks, and a Plea to Manufacturers

Posted by Linda W.,

Good article. As someone with food allergies, I'd like manufacturers to consider that many people have more than one allergy or sensitivity. Whatever is causing one (such as gut permeability) may well cause others. And celiacs often have problems with milk, so leaving milk out of gluten-free products can increase their market.
Also, corn is not on the big 8 list but is becoming a problem for many people.

Report abuse

Follow us


View more