Happy holidays: family, friends, food and anaphylactic shock?

Written by Charles Kinney on 9 December 2019 in Opinion Plus
Opinion Plus

At this time of year, it’s more important than ever to be aware of the potential dangers of food allergens. Proper implementation of EU food allergen regulation saves lives, explains Charles Kinney from the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases PatientsAssociations (EFA)

Photo CreditEFA

The EU Regulation on Food Information to Consumers (FIC) and its provisions relating to food-allergen labelling was a major step in protecting European consumers from food allergens.

However, its implementation in the areas of prepacked, non-prepacked and food services in some countries is falling short.

The European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients' Associations is releasing an in-depth analysis of the Quality of Life for People with Food Allergies in Europe: A Menu for Improvement initiative’s implementation.


"Food allergy is not a rare condition. 17 million Europeans suffer from food reactions, of which 3.5 million are under the age of 25"

For many Europeans, in what is supposed to be a joyous and reflective time of year when spent with your family, enjoying life and making memories, often anxiety and social ostracism are on the menu.

Going out for dinner or to a holiday party could lead to anaphylaxis or possible death as a result of inaccurate or mislabelled food products or services.

Food allergy is not a rare condition. 17 million Europeans suffer from food reactions, of which 3.5 million are under the age of 25. Over the last decade, the number children under five years of age with allergies has doubled, and visits to the emergency rooms to treat anaphylactic shock have increased seven-fold.

Additionally, the foodstuffs that triggers allergic reactions are not uncommon foods. The eight most common allergic foods, especially for children, are cow’s milk, egg, wheat, soy, peanut, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.

EU regulation states that food business operators and producers (for both prepacked and non-prepacked foods) must provide information to consumers on product labels and signposts regarding the 14 specified substances that are proven to trigger an adverse allergic or intolerance reaction.

Far too often, food producers rely on Precautionary Allergen Labelling (PAL) and an all-encompassing “may contain” label, which more often than not lists ALL possible food allergens.

But, in reality, the product may contain none or only a few of the allergens. Recipe or ingredient changes often also result in inaccurate labelling. Patients avoid products or services, causing anxiety, stress, added cost and damaging their Quality of Life (QoL).

Rather than being able to rely on accurate reference dose recommendations, some patients have even resorted to using an “I ate it and didn’t die” method. This is wholly unacceptable.

In the absence of an implementation report for European food labelling regulations for allergens, we, the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA), have released a QoL study.

The analysis aims to record the food allergen labelling measures put in place across several EU countries, and to report legislative gaps and their related impacts on the quality of life of patients living with allergies and their families and caregivers.

"Rather than being able to rely on accurate reference dose recommendations, some patients have even resorted to using an “I ate it and didn’t die” method. This is wholly unacceptable."

Based on this information, we have put together a set of recommendations for policymakers, public health authorities, the food industry, healthcare professionals, patient associations and food allergic patients with the aim of overcoming the legislative gaps.

Moreover, we have collected information from existing resources and developed a to-do list on food allergen management addressed to food business operators working for prepacked and non-prepacked food providers across the food supply chain.

Better management and stricter control of food allergens and their traces in kitchens and throughout the manufacturing process will ensure correct and accurate communication of allergen information to consumers, who can then protect themselves against allergic reactions.

Our key recommendations for EU authorities include: establishing reference doses for each food allergen listed in Annex II of the FIC Regulation; harmonising PAL based on an appropriate quantitative risk assessment from reference doses for safe levels of allergens, as well as the approach to risk assessment and the recall system, based on a common definition of health risk; and standardising the use of allergen symbols, primarily for prepacked and non-prepacked foods.

Ultimately, the goal is to improve QoL for patients and their caregivers, reduce feelings of discrimination and social isolation and prevent terrifying and life-threatening events.

The December 12 Food Detective breakfast kick-off event at the European Parliament is an integral part of EFA’s long-term roadmap for patient-centred information, prevention and care. #INFORMPREVENTCARE #DetectiveFood.

Read the report in its entirety: https://efanet.online/FoodDetectivesReport

For more information about the December 12th Food Detective event at the European Parliament, please contact: panagiotis.chaslaridis@efanet.org


About the author






Charles Kinney is EFA’s Communications Manager


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