14 food allergens must appear on UK labels by end of 2014

We are currently in the middle of #AllergyWeek in the United Kingdom (UK), which started on April 28 and will end on May 4. With an estimated 21 million people in the UK affected by at least one type of food allergy, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) says that allergies are a growing health concern. Not only are allergies life-changing — they can lead to long-term health conditions, or even be fatal.

In an effort to best support those with food allergies, the FSA is releasing new regulations on food labels beginning in December 2014. The Food Information Regulation requires that 14 of the major food allergens be listed as ingredients within foods on labels or on menus.

The list includes:

    There are tens of thousands of species of crustaceans — scientists believe thousands more have yet to be discovered.

  • Celery — which can be found in salads, soups, stock cubes and more
  • Gluten — often in breads, cakes, couscous, pasta, sauces and fried foods, among others
  • Crustaceans — crabs, lobster, prawns and scampi are all crustaceans
  • Eggs — this is used as an ingredient in cakes, some meat products, pasta, sauces and more
  • Fish — foods to look out for can include some pizzas, relishes and Worcestershire sauce
  • Lupin —a type of flour or seed sometimes used in bread, pastries and pasta
  • Milk — a common food in butters, cheeses, creams, and also in soups and sauces
  • Molluscs/Mollusks — these include mussels, land snails, squid and whelks, which can be found in oyster sauces or in some fish stews
  • Mustard —any type of liquid, powder or seed falls under the new regulation
  • The regulations differentiate between peanuts and the larger group of treenuts.

  • Nuts — in this case, not peanuts, but cashews, almonds and hazelnuts, found in bread, crackers, desserts, ice cream and others
  • Peanuts — the new regulations specifically point out peanuts, sometimes called a groundnut
  • Sesame seeds — found in bread (such as hamburger buns), houmous/hummus, tahini and more
  • Soya/Soy —an integral ingredient in oriental food, this can be found in many things, from tofu to ice cream, sauces and vegetarian products
  • Sulphur dioxide/Sulphites — those with asthma have a higher risk of developing a reaction to this ingredient, found in dried fruits, soft drinks, vegetables, wine and beer

For more information on the foods that may be affected by the above ingredients, please click here.

According to the FSA, hospital admissions from food allergies increased by 500% from 1990 to 2007 in the UK.

Officials in the United States are also working towards better guidelines for allergens. The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has recently issued guidelines for “identifying, controlling and labeling allergens and other ingredients of public health concern.” The guidelines were put into place after noting recalls from products that contained undeclared allergens, and said such recalls were “preventable.”

Currently, there is no cure for food allergies or intolerance. The only known method of preventing reactions to food ingredients is to avoid the products. Treatments for post-ingestion include antihistamines for mild symptoms. For more serious reactions, such as anaphylaxis, medication such as adrenaline (found in auto-injector pens) can be used.

For more information on Neogen products that help to detect for allergens in food, please click here.

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