Better assessment and management of food allergen risks to protect food-allergic people

Background

Food allergies are of high and growing importance to public health, affecting consumers’ quality of life and the demand for health service resources. Evidence is growing that this impact extends to the global level as developing countries adopt a ‘Western’ lifestyle. Minimising the risk from allergenic foods is a shared responsibility of all stakeholders involved (e.g. patients, clinicians, food producers, retailers, caterers and regulators).

Objectives

This task force aims to foster an international evidence-based consensus on how to assess the risk from allergenic foods and to develop the tools which will help to manage this risk.

Impact

  • The Food Allergy Task Force were pioneers in proposing dose distribution modelling as an approach for characterising and subsequently assessing the risk posed by food allergens. They created a framework for new thinking on food allergy risks and contributed to the acceptance of risk assessment-based approaches for food allergens.
  • The task force made significant contributions to the VITAL® (Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling) scientific panel and to the development of allergen reference doses.
  • The task force has built a strong network of international world-class experts from leading organisations such as the Food Allergy Research & Resource Program (FARRP) and the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI). The task force is acknowledged as a reliable and valuable partner by national regulators, leading clinicians, patient organisations and established industry players in the field.
  • The conclusions of the workshop on Thresholds to Action Levels (13-14 September 2012, Reading, UK) were summarised in three articles (R.W.R. Crevel et al., 2014a; R.W.R. Crevel et al., 2014b; S. Hattersley et al., 2014) and disseminated via a webinar on ‘Allergen Risk Assessment and Reference Doses’ (16 April 2015).
  • Recent publications assessed whether food processing is a mitigating or aggravating factor in allergic sensitisation (K. Verhoeckx et al., 2015) and proposed a framework that allows categorisation and prioritisation of allergenic foods according to their public health importance (G. Houben et al., 2016).

What’s New

  • A new activity proposal on ‘How Can We Define an Appropriate Level of Protection for Consumers with Food Allergies?’ is under scientific review.

For more detailed information, please contact Dr Cyril Marsaux at cmarsaux@ilsieurope.be

Task Force Members

 

Expert Groups

Verifying Vital® 2.0 Reference Doses: Suitability  of Analytical Methods

Objectives

Reliable analytical methods are a pivotal requirement for the introduction and adoption of reference doses in the European Union and beyond. This activity will report on the suitability of current analytical methods to reliably measure proposed allergens at various concentrations resulting from the use of the Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labeling (VITAL)® 2.0 reference doses. The VITAL® 2.0 reference doses were proposed by the VITAL® scientific expert panel and adopted in late 2011 by the Allergen Bureau of Australia and New Zealand.

Activity

The expert group is reviewing the fitness for purpose of current analytical methods to reliably measure the presence of allergens at concentrations resulting from the use of the VITAL® 2.0 reference doses in relevant food matrices. This will include method uncertainty, sensitivity, specificity and reproducibility, for example, challenges resulting from kit and antibody batch consistency (for immunoassays), units of measurement and expression of results. Intra-method reproducibility due to differences in method target specificity should also be considered. Reference will also be made to existing standards for validation of analytical methods for allergen detection and quantification.

Expected Output

This work will identify gaps in existing knowledge and technology, suggest ways to bridge those gaps and identify areas for further research. The conclusions may serve as a basis to prepare guidance for the analytical community, industry, regulatory stakeholders and patient groups.

Severity Versus Dose with Respect to Allergic Reactions

Objectives

The lack of data on the relationship between dose of allergen and severity of subsequent reaction has been identified as a critical data gap in relation to the definition of benchmarks for allergen management. Since severe reactions are clearly of greater concern, both from the public health perspective and from that of allergic individuals, a better understanding of how severity of reaction relates to the dose of allergen consumed would improve safety for these at-risk people.

Activity

The expert group has identified and reviewed available published and unpublished data on severity and dose with the aim to integrate this knowledge into risk assessment methods built on dose distribution modelling. On 15-16 September 2016, a stakeholder workshop was held in Brussels, Belgium, in order to reach a consensus on the likelihood that any given dose of a particular allergen would produce a reaction of a defined degree of severity. Alongside plenary talks on related initiatives pursued by EAACI, iFAAM and the multi-centre Peanut Allergen Threshold Study, the main outcomes of the expert group were discussed in break-out roundtable sessions. A total of 45 delegates attended the workshop, with participation of relevant stakeholder groups (16% health care practitioners, 29% industry experts, 11% regulatory experts, 18% scientists and risk assessors, 13% patient groups, 13% NGOs) including representatives of Health Canada, FARRP, US FDA, EFSA, EC JRC-IRMM, EAACI, UK FSA and other national food authorities.

Expected Output

This activity will form the basis for integrating data and knowledge into the risk analysis process. The findings will provide an evidence base which health practitioners can use to advise patients living with food allergies about management of their allergy. Likewise, food manufacturers and legislators will be given further evidence on which to base decisions about precautionary allergen labelling and management of allergens in food factories.

Expert Group Members

Verifying Vital® 2.0 Reference Doses: Suitability  of Analytical Methods


*Observer

Severity Versus Dose with Respect to Allergic Reaction


 

Publications

All Publications

The Role of Hazard- and Risk-Based Approaches in Ensuring Food Safety

Trends in Food Science & Technology. 2015;46(2) Part A:176-188. Supported by the following task forces: Emerging Microbiological Issues, Food Allergy, Food Intake Methodology, Novel Foods and Nanotechnology, Process Related Compounds and Natural Toxins, Risk Analysis in Food Microbiology, and Threshold of Toxicological Concern.

Read more

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