What Can We Do About Food Allergies?
New Estimates of ‘Safe’ Levels of Exposure to Peanut Protein Could Improve Labels
Food allergies affect a significant number of children and adults in the U.S. and Canada. To avoid allergic reactions, people with allergies and parents of children with allergies now must rely on food labels that offer ambiguous precautions about what’s in foods or the factories that make them.
The current labels lack information on how much peanut protein can be tolerated in a product without a major reaction. Current labels, with statements like “may contain” or “was processed in a facility…” are generally not helpful to consumers managing allergies.
In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences recommended that the food industry, the Food & Drug Administration, and the Agriculture Department work together to replace the current unhelpful labels for allergens with a new “risk-based” label. This recommendation formed the basis of the IAFNS effort.
The project — funded by the Food Chemical Safety Committee and led by researchers at the University of Cincinnati — analyzed risk data from medically-monitored tests on sensitive U.S. individuals to understand allergic responses to peanut proteins. For example, the researchers sought peanut protein levels that would elicit allergic responses in one percent and five percent of sensitive individuals for consideration by the broader scientific and regulatory community.
Knowing how much peanut protein does not present a health risk is a powerful tool that enables smarter management of allergies. This work is a critical, science-based step that could improve food labels for those managing peanut allergies.
Learn more about our work at the Food Chemical Safety Committee page