‘may contain nuts’ isn’t good enough
From conducting a forensic examination of food packaging information to having to repeatedly ask restaurant staff detailed questions about their ingredients, this can take a lot of time and effort.
Even so, there are still uncertainties to deal.
Labels such as \"may contain\" or \"made in the same factory\" do not actually quantify the individual\'s risk.
In addition to the ingredients directly used to make the product (such as contamination during transportation or storage), less obvious risks also pose a threat.
Therefore, in our recent study, we call for a new method of allergen measurement, and we hope to protect allergic patients by improving the accuracy of allergen testing.
Food allergies are a rapidly growing problem in developed countries, affecting up to 10% of children and 2-3% of adults.
The exact cause of the problem becoming more and more serious has been debated a lot, but similar increases have been observed in allergic reactions.
Common triggers include milk, eggs, shellfish, nuts, fish, and even some citrus fruits.
Reactions can range from mild runny nose or sneezing to severe skin reactions, swelling of the throat, vomiting, and diarrhea.
In rare cases, these reactions can lead to allergic reactions and prove to be fatal.
Food allergies can have a significant impact on quality of life and often require certain foods to be avoided for life.
Health care, the food industry and regulators also face a burden.
In addition to the threat of pollution, fraud is also a major problem.
Fraudsters will add cheaper illegal alternatives to their raw materials and will not declare them on packaging.
In these cases, it is difficult to detect and record the presence of allergens.
Most of the tests were conducted using enzymes.
Immune adsorption test (ELISA)
, It uses antibodies and color changes to identify allergens in the product.
However, other ingredients that may be themselves safe in the food interfere with the test results and trigger false positive results.
Keeping the equipment clean and the isolation of finished products from pollutants is also essential to avoid the generation of pollutants.
However, this is often not careful enough, which is why producers often use the \"may contain\" tag.
This is far from ideal-every allergen not found through the system poses a significant risk to consumer health and the reputation of the food industry.
The key to unlocking this issue may be by determining the minimum concentration of allergens that will produce allergic reactions in a certain proportion of allergic populations.
A lot of work is being done to determine the safety threshold of allergens, but without the standard method of accurately and reliably measuring allergens, this work is likely to be futile.
This also requires better regulation to support to prevent contamination of food during transportation and storage.
These are the major gaps in the system, and only by closing them can we ensure a reliable food chain that can withstand fraud and ultimately be safe for consumers.
My colleagues and I have called on DG santé, the EU food safety agency, to take the lead in addressing deficiencies in the current system.
We outlined a grand vision to address the challenges of allergen measurement and analysis and called for action in three main areas.
One is to use computer models to predict which allergens are present in food, and the number of these allergens can adversely affect the health of allergic patients.
This will make it easier for labels to understand, and the information includes \"suitable for patients\" for specific food allergies or \"inappropriate\" rather than the current \"possible inclusion \".
Another is the development of reference methods that provide a gold standard for the detection and measurement of allergens in foods.
Similarly, we also need to create reference materials that support threshold decision-there are food samples of known, controlled quantities of allergens in order to check the accuracy of allergen testing methods.
In order to achieve these goals and protect allergic patients, significant international efforts and cross-cutting approaches will be required.
But the reality is that if we fail to manage the risks associated with food allergens due to a lack of ability to properly measure food allergens, we will fail.
Chris Elliottisrofessor, College of molecular biological sciences, Queen\'s University of London.
The article was originally published in the dialogue.
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