With food allergies affecting up to 10 percent of adults and eight percent of children globally, food manufacturers must ensure food labelling and allergen information is accurate, clear and easy to understand.
The result of getting it wrong can lead to food recalls, loss of consumer trust, legal action and expensive fines.
To help food manufacturers mitigate these risks, Campden BRI has launched a new e-book,' Managing Food Allergens', to help producers understand the issue and the requirement for robust food safety management systems.
"This is a complex and ever-developing area which food businesses need to ensure they are addressing effectively and thoroughly," said Helen Arrowsmith, Regulatory Affairs Manager and Allergen Specialist of Campden BRI.
Many individuals have food hypersensitivity, where they experience an adverse reaction to specific foods, ranging from mild irritation to potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis. A study released in February 2023 revealed that over five years, more than half of food recalls in the UK were due to allergens. Of the 1,036 recalls in the UK from 2016 to 2021, published by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS), 597 were related to allergens.
This has severe consequences with real-world effects. Statistics show more than 7,700 hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of allergic food reactions in the UK in 2019-20, and 10 food allergy-related deaths occur annually.
"These cases can result from cross-contact in the production process," said Christopher James, Safety and Quality Specialist on Allergens.
A recent poll by Campden BRI revealed that 70 percent of food and drink industry professionals considered it the most significant challenge when dealing with food allergens.
Cross-contact or lack of information can occur at any stage of food production. The new e-book: 'Managing Food Allergens', is a guide to understanding food hypersensitivity and how allergen cross-contact can occur. It also includes information on labelling and testing to aid safe food production.
Arrowsmith stated that since food allergens cannot be removed from products once they are present and generally cannot be destroyed by treatments typically used for killing microorganisms, effective food allergen management and accurate labelling and provision of information are essential for ensuring the safety of food for consumers with food hypersensitivity.
"Our new guide is essential reading for food and drink professionals," said Arrowsmith.