Allergic reactions to foods can be provoked by less than 1/5000th of an ounce of an allergen. Such trace amounts are well above the levels caused by cross-contamination in poorly developed industrial food manufacturing. Another factor is that allergens can be disguised in food ingredients. For example, soy lecithin obviously comes from soybeans (soybeans are one of the so-called 'big eight' allergens), but less obvious is that lecithin not made from soy likely contains egg (another 'big eight' allergen). But under existing labeling laws, it is not required for soy or egg to be specifically identified on a food label of a product containing one of these ingredients, making it confusing or difficult for someone with food allergies to make an informed decision. Millions of North Americans suffer from food allergies. Some food allergies, particularly peanut allergies, can be fatal. Eight food groups are responsible for most allergic reactions: Crustaceans such as crab and lobster; peanuts, eggs, fish, milk, soy, tree nuts such as almonds and walnuts; and wheat.
On August 2, 2004, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (S. 741) in USA was signed into law. The bill requires food manufacturers to clearly state if a product contains any of the eight major food allergens responsible for 90% of all allergic reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy. In addition, it requires that the Food and Drug Administration conduct inspections and issue a report within 18 months to ensure that food manufacturers comply with practices to reduce or eliminate cross-contact of a food with any major food allergens that are not intentional ingredients of the food.
The use of protein additives such as gluten, peanut and milk proteins is widespread. They add to the functionality, texture and taste of many foods. However, for an increasing number of people (perhaps 6-8% of children and 2% of adults), these and other proteins can cause serious problems of intolerance and allergenicity. Addition of these ingredients to foods either accidentally or without adequate labelling can only be controlled if effective methods of detection are employed by food manufacturers and regulatory laboratories.
ILC Micro-Chem can facilitate the detection of an increasing number of these allergens in foods, using laboratory ELISA tests. These specific allergen tests supplement your regular hygiene monitoring tests.
A list of potentially allergenic ingredients* has been defined. Control of these allergens in e.g. food manufacturing & catering establishments, is therefore becoming increasingly important. Many manufacturers are adapting HACCP programs to include an Allergen Control Plan to minimize risks to allergic consumers. High levels of cleanliness are essential to prevent Cross-contamination of all process equipment.
(*including Cereal gluten, Crustacea, Egg, Milk, Peanut, Sesame, Soya, Tree nuts)
The CFIA recognizes the efforts by many members of the food industry to improve the accuracy of ingredient declarations and to implement controls to reduce carry-over of ingredients. As food safety is paramount to consumers, the food industry, and government, the CFIA also urges the food industry sector to develop strategies, such as an allergen prevention plan, to manage the risks associated with those foods known to cause severe adverse reactions. part of every strategy should include a thorough evaluation of the manufacturing and ingredient control procedures. It is also the importers/distributors responsibility to ensure that all prepackaged foods that are imported are fully and correctly labelled, and preferably are sourced from suppliers having an allergy prevention plan in place.
Accurate and complete labelling of foods will reduce the need for costly food recalls. It will also assist Canadians with severe food sensitivities to make safe choices from a wider variety of foods in the marketplace.