a Tantalus torture for food allergies – WWN

a Tantalus torture for food allergies – WWN

Removing some precautionary food labels that indicate non-dangerous traces of certain substances could allow patients to consume foods that were previously prohibited

Can you die from food allergies? Recent news events demonstrate this. They are among two and four people per yearand that in Italy they lose their lives because they make the mistake of ingesting a food they know they are good for to be allergic
. Errors that can depend on various reasons:


2.labeling errors: the allergenic food not correctly reported on the product label that the consumer finds on the supermarket shelves
3. change in composition of a food habitually consumed: the patient no longer reads the label because he is used to buying that product, but the composition has been changed and the consumer is misled.

Certainly life for people who suffer from food allergy complex. With a sword of Damocles over his head – for the risk of serious reactions at all times –, suffer the torture of Tantalus: they desire foods that are within their reach, but they cannot eat them. He is forbidden to do so precautionary labeling on the food they would like. In fact, on many foods that do not contain, for example, milk, eggs or hazelnuts, it is written that this food could contain… or: produced in a factory where they also produce…. or even possible presence of traces of….. While indicating the presence of allergenic ingredients is mandatory by law, the practice of precautionary labeling is not regulated by any law.

Recently the WHO, together with the FAO, has attempted to regulate this matter. A working group indicated that below a certain concentration
it is not appropriate to include precautionary labels. This concentration is taken from the average of the reactivity thresholds of food allergic people, i.e. it is calculated on the basis of concentrations of food allergens to which subjects with these conditions react. The calculations to establish these thresholds are extremely precautionary.

In December the World Allergy Organization held a symposium, organized by the Allergy Unit of the Bambino Ges pediatric hospital, entitled Hunger in Abundance. In the context of the World Congress of Allergy, initiatives for regulate precautionary labeling. Contributing to the debate is a study recently published by the Allergology Unit of the Bambino Ges pediatric hospital, documenting that children with severe allergies to milk may not have reactions if exposed to quantities of milk exceeding even 5 times the indicated thresholds. Thirty children with milk anaphylaxis were subjected to load tests with pralines containing traces of milk, at concentrations ranging from 8 to 35 mg of total protein/kg of food. These quantities exceeded 1.5-10 times the thresholds suggested by the FAO/WHO consultation.

The study indicates that there is one room for maneuver of which food manufacturers could avoid giving precautionary indications. If his results were confirmed, we can glimpse a elimination of precautionary food labelling. For children with food allergies and their families it would be a great benefit, because it would give them back the possibility of cconsuming foods that were previously prohibited. Furthermore, by simplifying the labels, errors in judgment that can lead to tragic consequences would be less likely.

*Alessandro Fiocchi, head of Allergology, Bambino Ges Pediatric Hospital

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January 22, 2024 (changed January 22, 2024 | 2.55 pm)

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