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27 October 2010

A new vision for allergen management

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The Food and Drink Federation's (FDF)[1] Allergens Steering Group[2] has published a paper 'A Vision for Allergen Management Best Practice in the Food Industry', which sets out a consistent allergen management approach based on quantitative assessment of risk, that aims to minimise the risk to our allergic consumers whilst maximising their choices.

While current practices in allergen management have increased the safety of food products for allergic consumers, the lack of an agreed approach to risk assessment has led to divergent standards applied by different manufacturers. This in turn has led to excessive use of precautionary 'may contain' labelling and an associated reduction in consumer trust and risk-taking.

To improve this situation for consumers, the food industry and the enforcement authorities, the paper proposes a vision for best practice based on a shift from the current hazard-based approach to a risk-based approach. Setting action levels[3] for allergen management that are firmly rooted in scientific and clinical knowledge, will allow industry to consistently apply precautionary labelling, and clearly communicate the allergen status of a food.

The approach also recognises that minimising the risk from allergenic foods is a shared responsibility between the food industry, regulators, health professionals and by allergic patients themselves.

Rachel Ward, Chair of the FDF Allergens Steering Group said: “We firmly believe that industry risk management practices are sufficiently capable to deliver this vision to the highest standards. We hope that this paper will fuel the debate on policy implications amongst all stakeholders involved.”

Sue Hattersley, Head of Food Allergy Branch at the Food Standards Agency said: “The Food Standards Agency recognises the importance of developing internationally agreed allergen management thresholds. These will provide a consistent basis for industry practice and, more importantly, will give food allergic consumers confidence when using food labelling information to make their food choices. The Agency is keen to continue to work with all those involved to help realise the vision set out in this paper.”

Lynne Regent, Chief Executive Officer of the Anaphylaxis Campaign said: “The Anaphylaxis Campaign welcomes this paper. We support the view that this is an extremely considered and intelligent allergen management “vision” which, if it were to be taken forward and fulfilled, would hopefully minimize the use of unnecessary precautionary labelling and make shopping for food allergic individuals a safer and less stressful experience.

Reference: Ward, R. et al., A vision for allergen management best practice in the food industry, Trends in Food Science & Technology (2010), doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2010.09.004

Notes for Editors

1. The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) is the voice of the food and drink manufacturing industry – the UK's largest manufacturing sector. For more information about FDF and the industry we represent visit: www.fdf.org.uk.

2. The FDF Allergens Steering Group deals with issues relating to allergen control and labelling. The Group of industry experts works to review the status of allergen management in food manufacturing disseminate best practice and propose steps to further develop risk management capability.

3. The Action Level for an allergen denotes the amount per portion, which when unavoidably present in a product despite allergen management control efforts, would not elicit severe reactions in the vast majority of sensitive individuals.

More Information

FDF Press team
Rebecca Wilhelm rebecca.wilhelm@fdf.org.uk or 020 7420 7140
Sarah Lovell sarah.lovell@fdf.org.uk or 020 7420 7131

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