Reducing risk, food allergen testing on the up

By staff writer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Allergy Food allergy Asthma Uk

As countdown to new rules on allergen labelling begins, UK food
laboratories gear up for growth in testing procedures.

Under current legislation food makers do not have to declare allergens on the label if they are present in an added ingredient that makes up less than 25 per cent of the final food - for example, pepperoni on pizza.

But keeping a pace with the rise in allergy sufferers, new European legislation cleared at the end of 2004, enforced next month, brings in considerable legal requirements to curb risks for food allergy sufferers.

Directive 2003/89/EC, amending Directive 2000/13, ends the 20 year old '25 per cent' rule.

It heralds the mandatory inclusion on food labels of the most common food allergen ingredients and their derivatives: cereals containing gluten, fish, crustaceans, egg, peanut, soybeans, milk and dairy products including lactose, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seed, and sulphites.

Keen to keep a pace with the rules, it seems imminent enforcement has propelled food and beverage makers to accelerate testing.

"We have recently seen an increase in the demand for our allergen consultancy services - auditing, training and helping companies establish their own on-site testing facilities,"​ UK food testing laboratory RSSL tells

The Reading-based firm, that claims to have analysed "a vast array of different food and beverage matrices"​, including both cooked and raw ingredients, has also been "doing a lot of analysis of both environmental swabs and rinse waters"​ to help companies in their fight against cross contamination.

If the risk of cross contamination is deemed high, food and beverage makers are advised, "as a last resort"​, to implement oft-criticised precautionary labelling.

The 'may contain' label covers the back of the food firm, but leaves the consumer with little information.

Indeed, the UK's Food and Drink Federation, that represents manufacturers, recommends the label should be used only when there is a demonstrable risk of an allergen being present.

"Our client base can be broadly segregated into those complying to the new labelling regulations (2003/89EC), and those in the speciality sector - for example, free-from manufacturers,"​ adds the food testing firm, that declined to disclose the costs of the services.

"Price depend on the complexity of the sample and test,"​ says RSSL.

An estimated 4 per cent of adults and 8 per cent of children in the 380 million EU population suffer from food allergies, according to the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients' Associations.

There is no current cure for a food allergy, and vigilance by an allergic individual is the only way to prevent a reaction.

Related topics Ingredients

Related news