World’s biggest study of food allergies gets underway

7_Allergy_FoodsHylobates is one of the SME participants of the world’s biggest ever study of allergies known as the Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management (iFAAM) which officially got underway on 19 March. The €9million project spearheaded by the University of Manchester builds on an earlier €14.3 million research study and will involve the worlds leading experts in the UK, Europe, Australia and US. The parting point is the lack of evidence to either prevent food allergy developing or protect adequately those who are already allergic. The 38 partners iFAAM consortium will produce a standardised management process for food manufacturing companies and will also develop tools designed to enforce these regulations and produce evidence-based knowledge to inform new health advice on nutrition for pregnant women, babies and allergy sufferers.

Up to 20 million European citizens suffer from food allergy which may be triggered by a list of foods including milk, egg, peanuts, soya, wheat, tree nuts, mustard, lupin, fish, crustacean and molluscan shell fish and celery which have to be labelled irrespective of the level at which they are included in a recipe. However, management of food allergens that accidently find their way into foods which might otherwise be free of allergen, for example through the use of common processing equipment, remains problematic and often gives rise to precautionary “may contain” labels.

Professor Clare Mills, from the Allergy and Respiratory Centre of The University of Manchester’s Institute of Inflammation and Repair and based in the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, will head the study. Professor Mills said: “This is a massive research project which will have far reaching consequences for consumers and food producers. The evidence base and tools that result from this will support more transparent precautionary “may contain” labelling of allergens in foods which will make life easier for allergy sufferers as they try to avoid problem foods.”

Sue Hattersley, Head of the UK Food Standard’s Agency’s Allergy Branch said: “We anticipate that the information learned through iFAAM will help determine a more consistent approach to providing consumers with information, so they can make safe choices about the food they eat. Furthermore it will provide a greater insight into the development of food allergies. From an industry and regulatory perspective, it is expected that the results of the project will provide more guidance on the management of food allergens.”

New risk models will be built on pre-existing clinical data sets to support management of these allergens in a factory environment to minimise the use of such labels. Luca Bucchini, manager director of iFAAM partner Hylobates Consulting which will contribute to contamination modelling and in disseminating risk analysis methods to food industry and SMEs, said: “Managing food allergens is still a challenge for many food businesses, particularly smaller SMEs.  Better tools can benefit consumers with food allergies, including children.”

Other researchers will look at tools to measure allergens in food to allow validation and monitoring of allergen management plans. Other strands of the three year project will seek to predict who is likely to suffer a severe reaction, identify whether early introduction of allergenic foods and other nutritional factors may be protective against development of allergies later on in life.


Hylo’s Research Team

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