suggest warning symbol for foods, non-foods
of Article: http://www.dairyreporter.com/Safety-Hygiene/Allergy-specialists-suggest-warning-symbol-for-foods-non-foods
By Jess Halliday, 31-Jul-2009
Use of a common symbol to indicate the
presence of individual allergens in food and personal care products could
help allergy sufferers identify products to avoid – especially in
multi-lingual communities, say specialists from Imperial College.
Incidence of allergy has been increasing. In the UK some 1.8 per
cent of children now have peanut allergy; in the US, 8 per cent of children
and 4 per cent of adults have a food allergy. This means it is vital that
people with allergies
(or parents) can avoid products that are dangerous to them.
The allergy specialists from the UK suggested the development of a
common symbol after conducting a survey amongst patients of children with
nut allergies about how allergen wording affected their buying decisions.
Dr Lee Noimark and colleagues said that their clinic serves a
multi-ethnic population, and parents who are unable to read English are “poorly
served by warnings on products”. A common symbol, to be shown to the
family at the clinic, would remove language barriers and difficulty in
It would also reduce shopping time – and, most importantly, increase
the safety of the allergic patient.
Dr Noimark and colleagues conducted a survey of 184 parents of
children with nut allergies, giving them a questionnaire to fill out while
at the clinic.
They asked them what wording would discourage them from buying a
Eighty per cent of respondents said they would not buy a product
labelled ‘not suitable for nut allergy sufferers’ or ‘may contain nuts’.
However only about 50 per cent of parents would products with looser
warnings, such as ‘cannot guarantee nut free’, ‘made in a factory that uses
nuts’ or ‘may contain traces of nuts’.
They found that a large number of parents were not reading the
labels at all, were ignoring them, or were assuming that there is a
gradation of risk depending on the wording.
The specialists also identified some interesting habits amongst
buyers that warrant further investigation. For instance, they may be more
likely to trust a product from one manufacturer bearing ‘may contain’
labels than a similar product with similar wording from another
European guidelines from 2005 state that all foods comprising five
per cent of the formulation need to be included on a product label; and any
of the group of 12 major allergens (milk, egg, fish, crustaceans, peanuts,
tree nuts, gluten, sesame, soya, celery, mustard and sulphites) need to be
declared regardless of the quantity.
However not all possible ‘hidden’ allergens in ingredients – such as
lecithin, which can come from soy or egg – are covered; nor is the
possibility of cross-contamination by shared use of equipment.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency has developed guidelines for food
firms to present allergy information in the most straightforward,
But the specialists say that further tightening of legislation and
better education would help decrease anaphylaxis risk.
One particular area of concern is non-food products. Dr Noimark and
colleagues said the “hidden danger” of nut extract in self care
products “remains poorly recognised”.
Some animal research has indicated that using peanut oil containing
products on inflamed or broken skin could increase the risk of them
developing a sensitivity to eating peanuts
– even if they were tolerant to them before.
Such products are not included under European food allergy
regulations, “and therefore remain an unknown menace,” the
Pediatric Allergy and Immunology 2009: 20: 500-504
Parents’ attitudes when purchasing products for children with nut
allergy: A UK perspective
Authors: Noimark L, Gardner J, Warner J.