Risk Models (Module 3)

Allergens are unusual food contaminants in that they are harmless to more than 95 per cent of consumers and are often used in considerable quantities in food manufacturing, factors that make them a challenge to control in manufacturing operations.

In practice, it is not possible to exclude allergens completely from foods otherwise free from a particular allergenic ingredient when shared facilities and processing lines are used.

As a result, allergen management strategies need to focus on how much residual allergenic ingredient can be tolerated in such foods.

Modelling allergenic risk

Allergen exposures generally occur in two main ways:

  • The consumer makes a mistake and eats a food that they should know probably contains a lot of allergen (such as an egg allergic child eating a home-made ice cream that contains raw egg) or,
  • A manufacturer fails to manage allergen handling properly and a food expected not to contain allergen contains enough to elicit an allergic reaction

Reference values for allergenic ingredients for major allergenic foods will be derived based on dose distributions of individual thresholds. These will be linked to representative consumption models in order to build robust, probabilistic risk assessment algorithms for management of allergens in Europe which will be trialled using allergen contamination scenarios for the most important production processes.  

Clinical evidence and validation of risk models

Dose-distribution models characterising population response to allergens will be clinically-validated using a single dose challenge protocol with respect to major, widely used allergenic ingredients, including cows’ milk, egg, peanut, hazelnut and celery.

Probabilistic risk assessment models will be validated through a pilot study seeking to estimate the overall frequency of all reactions experienced in a free-living group of allergic patients (AlleRiC: Allergic Reactions in the Community).

This study will be developed in collaboration with allergic patient groups.