An international study of food allergy is underway, headed by University of Manchester in the U.K., that aims to develop an evidence-based management process for food manufacturers, as well as guidelines for pregnant women, infants, and allergy sufferers. The four-year €9 million ($US 11.6 million) Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management or iFAAM project, led by Manchester allergist Clare Mills, involves 38 academic and industrial researchers and patient advocates in Europe, the U.S., and Australia.
The EU reports as many as 20 million Europeans have food allergies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. says 4 of 100 children in the U.S. also suffer from food allergies. However, lack of hard evidence on food allergies, say the researchers, prevents forming adequate safeguards to counter development of food allergies, and protections for those who are already allergic.
The iFAAM project aims to fill those gaps, with a standarized management process for food manufacturers. The project also plans to develop enforcement tools and produce evidence for new guidelines on nutrition for pregnant women, babies, and allergy sufferers. “The evidence base and tools that result from this,” says Mills, “will support more transparent precautionary ‘may contain’ labeling of allergens in foods which will make life easier for allergy sufferers as they try to avoid problem foods.”
Many foods are already known to trigger allergic reactions, such as milk, eggs, and peanuts, which are labeled even if only minute levels of the food are in a recipe. Manufacturers, however, may accidently encounter allergens through the use of common processing equipment, which leads to the use of indications on food labels that a product “may contain” an allergen.
The project aims to make it possible to minimize the use of “may contain” labeling, by developing new risk models from available clinical data to better manage the presence of allergens in food processing factories. Other iFAAM researchers will devise tools to measure allergens in food to allow validation and monitoring of allergen management plans. The project also seeks to better predict people likely to suffer a severe reaction, and determine if early introduction of allergenic foods and other nutritional factors can protect against development of allergies later on in life.
This new project builds on an earlier EU-funded study, EuroPrevall, that examined the prevalence cost and basis of food allergy in Europe. Mills was also leader of that project.
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