Food allergies – are we at the crux?

Professor Michael Walker discusses recent developments in risk assessment for food allergies.

Food allergy needs no introduction to New Food readers; the magazine regularly publishes articles around this topic. However, I think it’s time for another, given some interesting recent developments that have far-reaching implications for people with food allergies, food businesses and regulators.

What is food allergen risk assessment?

Risk management action= ∫ (Risk)
Risk = ∫ (hazard, exposure)

Risk assessment is the process of identifying hazards that have the potential to cause harm and the risk they pose so that action can be taken to eliminate or minimise that risk. The action is a function of the risk, while the risk is a function of the hazard and the exposure to the hazard with consideration of the nature of the effects. In food allergen quantitative risk assessment (QRA) the following applies:

  • The hazard is the allergen protein(s)
  • The exposure is the quantity of allergen proteins consumed
  • Allergen QRA seeks to identify the allergen and quantify the exposure (amount consumed) – ie, the output
  • Risk management compares the QRA output with a predefined level of allergen, eg, an action level or ‘threshold’. A threshold is a reference dose that elicits defined allergic reactions in a defined percentage of the population with the allergy. For example, the eliciting doses that cause objective symptoms of allergy in one percent or five percent of the population are termed the ED01 and ED05 respectively.
  • Analysis of food may be a crucial step along the way.