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Study identifies levels of common allergens required for reaction

Posted:  Monday, January 19, 2015

A small allergy warning at the end of a food packet is a pretty common sight. But how does one estimate the exact amounts of the allergen present when the message reads, ‘May contain peanut allergens’? A new study has found that 1.6-10.1 mg of hazelnut, peanut and celery protein; 27.3 mg of fish and 2.5 g of shrimp protein were required to produce an allergic response.

The results of this study were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Most allergies are caused by 8 specific foods, namely milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. The researchers wanted to identify the level of allergen that would only produce a reaction in the most sensitive 10% of people.

The researchers of the study analysed data from 436 people from the EuroPrevall project who were allergic to peanuts, hazelnuts, celery, fish or shrimp. Each of the participants had to take part in a food challenge that entailed consuming small quantities of the foods they were allergic to while the researchers monitored their response.

The Food Allergen Labelling law states that food packets must clearly mention the primary allergens, either in an allergen statement or in the ingredient list. Food packets should also feature a precautionary label if the foods have been processed in a factory that deals with these allergens. Inconsistent precautionary labelling may lead to confusion and risk taking among consumers.

Commenting on the study findings, the researchers said, “What we would like to see are warnings which tell people with allergies to avoid certain products completely or just apply to those who are most sensitive.” They hope these findings will better inform food allergy sufferers of the allergen doses that may trigger a reaction as well as contribute to improved food product labelling.

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