Food Allergen and Allergy Management Knowledge Base (Module 5)
Reducing the burden of food allergies carried by food allergic consumers, their families and the surrounding community requires an integration of data and methods used for food allergen management by the food industry, within the wider framework of allergy diagnosis, treatment and management in the clinic and efforts to use dietary strategies for the prevention of allergies.
The effective management of food allergens and food allergies requires active involvement of all stakeholders, who need to be informed by accurate information on the allergen content in food and the risk it poses of triggering a reaction, and evidence-based dietary advice to prevent their development in the first place. This activity will be undertaken in close collaboration with the iFAAM stakeholder groups.
Evidence-based integrated tools for food allergen management
The supply, handling, production, distribution and sale of foods are all tightly linked throughout the food supply chain. Although hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) systems are in place (especially during production) these often fail to identify critical points for a novel chemical hazard, such as food allergens.
Such essential components of modern food-safety management need to be included, validated and translated into practice to provide the food industry with best practice models for further minimisation of unintentional cross contamination. The approaches we will take will embrace the following:
- Traceability throughout the food chain from primary production to the finished food product which the consumer purchases;
- Analysis of each step involved in a manufacturing process, identification of allergenic risks and the critical points at which those risks can be controlled;
- Quantification of the allergens at each of those points, in which analytical methodologies play a critical role;,
- Risk assessment, taking into account exposure and the characteristics of the allergens, in particular how much of an allergenic food has to be consumed to cause an allergic reaction.
A holistic approach to food allergy management will be developed spanning
- Dietary strategies for prevention of allergies, including the role of early introduction of allergenic foods and the evidence base to support dietary advice to pregnant mothers and development of guidelines on weaning and infant nutrition regarding allergies.
- Identifying those at risk of severe reactions and equipping them to manage their condition more effectively.
- Supporting allergic consumers to manage food avoidance given the plethora of precautionary statements on food labels, and the variability with which they have been applied. Such information needs to be set into the food allergy management plans, which are focused around the allergic individual.