Food labelling for allergic patients: “food for thought”
Our era can easily be characterized as “the years of allergy pandemic. Food allergies affect more than 2% of adults and 5% of children worldwide. Speaking of food allergic patients the first alarm that comes in mind, is anaphylaxis. According to World Allergy Organization, anaphylaxis is an acute, severe generalized allergic reaction that can cause death. The main symptoms of food anaphylaxis when an allergen is consumed are: urticaria, oedema of the lips or/+ eyelids, stridor, respiratory distress, vomiting, low blood pressure, dizziness, faint.
It is very important to notice that the most dangerous top 8 allergens are common globally: cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, fish, crustaceans, tree nuts, peanuts and soya. Their incidence differs according to the age or the geographical area. Apart from the danger if a person takes an allergen accidentally, there is a big concern about allergen labelling in food.
An allergic patient or the parents and caregivers of an allergic child, should be extremely cautious about hidden allergens in food.
European legislation has raised a revised declaration in July 2017 about the reference of allergens in food labels. For example, in the ingredients list, the allergens must be noticed in bold and easily readable characters. If an allergen is referred by a term not commonly used, the food by which it is extracted must be written on the side in a parenthesis. I.e., whey (milk), lecithin (egg or soya).There is an exemption if the allergen consists the food itshelf, i.e.: chocolate with milk.
The patients should not ignore the possibility of cross contamination in the production chain or any other mistake by the manufacturer. The only way for an allergic person to face an anaphylactic episode is to be equipped with and educated in the use of adrenaline autoinjector. Allergists and Pediatric allergists are the main health providers to inform and educate their allergic patients in order to eat safely.
MD, PhD Pediatrician – Pediatric Allergist