Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management
ABOUT iFAAM (Grant no. 312147)
Duration: 4 years from March 2013 to February 2017
Coordinator: IFAAM was led by the University of Manchester (UK)
Project partners: iFAAM involved 38 partners.
Source of funding: iFAAM was a €9 million EU-funded project, built on an earlier €14.3 million research (EuroPrevall). IFAAM was the world’s biggest ever study of allergies
Up to 20 million European citizens are food allergic. However, management of food allergy, by patients and health practitioners, and allergens, by the industry, is thwarted by lack of evidence to either prevent food allergy developing or protect adequately those who are already allergic.
Aim & Project Deliverable(s)
The European Commission-sponsored research, known as the Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management (iFAAM), produced a standardised management process for companies involved in food manufacturing. It also developed tools designed to enforce these regulations and produced evidence-based knowledge to inform new health advice on nutrition for pregnant women, babies and those with food allergies.
The Manchester team worked with 38 partners including, industrial stakeholders (represented by Unilever and Eurofins), patient groups representing people at risk of severe allergic reactions from Germany, UK and Ireland and a risk manager and assessor group, including the UK Food Standards Agency. iFAAM worked loosely with the clinical community, working in collaboration with the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Professor Clare Mills, from the Allergy and Respiratory Centre of The University of Manchester’s Institute of Inflammation and Repair and based in the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, headed the study. Professor Mills said: “This is a massive research project which will have far reaching consequences for consumers and food producers. The evidence base and tools that result from this will support more transparent precautionary “may contain” labelling of allergens in foods which will make life easier for allergy sufferers as they try to avoid problem foods.”
Nikolaos Papadopoulos, Head of Allergy Department, University of Athens and President Elect EAACI, said: “Food Allergy is a disease that can be conquered, if critical steps are taken. iFAAM sets the stage for facilitating such steps to be taken“.
Dr Bert Popping, Eurofins Scientific Director, said: “Eurofins is excited to be part of this European Commission project. We are looking forward to sharing our newly-developed multiple allergen detection method and making a meaningful contribution to this crucial initiative”.
Sue Hattersley, Head of the UK Food Standard’s Agency’s Allergy Branch said: “We welcome the launch of the iFAAM, which the FSA will be supporting through some of our own current research projects. We anticipate that the information learned through iFAAM will help determine a more consistent approach to providing consumers with information, so they can make safe choices about the food they eat. Furthermore it will provide a greater insight into the development of food allergies. From an industry and regulatory perspective, it is expected that the results of the project will provide more guidance on the management of food allergens”.
There was currently a list of foods considered to be responsible for triggering the majority of allergies across the world which includes milk, egg, peanuts, soya, wheat, tree nuts, mustard, lupin, fish, crustacean and molluscan shell fish and celery which have to be labelled irrespective of the level at which they were included in a recipe. However, management of food allergens that accidently found their way into foods which might otherwise be free of allergen, for example through the use of common processing equipment, remains problematic and often gives rise to precautionary ‘may contain’ labels.
New risk models was built on pre-existing clinical data sets to support management of these allergens in a factory environment to minimise the use of such labels. Other researchers looked at tools to measure allergens in food to allow validation and monitoring of allergen management plans. Other strands of the project sought to predict who was likely to suffer a severe reaction, identify whether early introduction of allergenic foods and other nutritional factors might be protective against development of allergies later on in life.
Regina Cahill, of Anaphylaxis Ireland, said better labelling would benefit suffers. She said: “Careful scrutiny of food labels is an essential part of daily life for food allergic individuals and their families. The widespread use of ‘may contain…’ statements is both frustrating and limiting for allergic consumers. This type of precautionary statement can often leave consumers wondering if the product is likely to contain the allergen mentioned and can lead to risk taking. The development of safe allergen thresholds would give the food industry guidelines to work within and would hopefully lead to a welcome reduction in the use of ‘May contain …’ statements”.
iFAAM, which was expected to take three years to complete, also worked with groups of babies and groups of children who had been followed from birth in a number of countries including the UK to look at allergy and gave advice on diet in pregnancy and early life.
ROLE of EuroFIR AISBL in IFAAM
EuroFIR AISBL’s role was to contribute to food coding to EuroPrevall data sets in Word Package 1 of the project, which objective was to assess the influence of maternal diet and infant feeding practices on the patterns and the prevalence of allergies across Europe.
FIND OUT MORE
For more information visit IFAAM website