Identification of allergens

The main challenge to the food industry is to provide accurate and up-to-date information at all times so that sufferers of allergies can select foods with confidence.

The first step in identifying a strategy for managing allergens in the food industry is to highlight the key allergens to be controlled. These do vary from country to country, but certain allergens are seen as important in most countries. Other key allergens may vary and can be added to the list to suit the specific country; for instance in France celery is viewed as an important allergen. Suggested key allergens are as follows:

Nut oils are an area worthy of comment. Research suggests that refined, bleached, deodorised nut oils do not initiate allergic reactions,2 even in those who are anaphylactic to nuts. Unrefined, cold pressed or virgin nut oils are chosen specifically for their distinctive flavour. These oils are not refined and contain small amounts of protein from the original nut. The same research study showed that unrefined oils were able to cause reactions in individuals who have suffered previous anaphylaxis, but that generally the reactions were not as severe as those experienced when nuts were eaten. The small amount of protein that is present in unrefined oils is removed through the process of refining, bleaching and deodorising, rendering the oils suitable for allergy sufferers.

Once key allergens have been identified, all steps in the manufacturing process need to be cross-checked to ascertain whether there are any allergens present in the product, or indeed whether there is any chance of cross-contamination with any allergens during the manufacturing process.

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