New research aimed at clarifying “how much is too much” for food labeling assessed the rate at which most food allergies see adverse effects when ingesting five food-based allergens.

The assessment included peanuts, hazelnuts, celery, fish and shrimp. The study found an acceptable level to which 90 percent of food allergy sufferers with allergies to these items will not have a reaction.

Research Hopes to Improve Allergy Warnings

The research team, led by Clare Mills of the Institute of Inflammation and Repair at the University of Manchester in the U.K. says the findings will hopefully lead to improved allergy warnings on food products. For food products that accidentally contain traces of allergens due to being made in a factory that handles the allergens, for example, precautionary warnings may be applied to labels. However, this precautionary labeling is neither consistent nor regulated.

“What we wanted was to find a level of allergen which would only produce a reaction in the most sensitive 10% of people,” Mills explains. “This sort of data can then be used to apply a consistent level of warning to food products.”

The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, involved 436 people who were allergic to at least one of the five allergens. All of them were part of the EuroPrevall project in the United Kingdom, a European food allergy assessment program. Each participant took part in food challenges, consuming small doses of the food(s) they were allergic to as researchers monitored reactions.

The Statistics

In the 10% of participants who were most sensitive to food allergens, the team found that between 1.6-10.1 mg of hazelnut, peanut and celery protein needed to be consumed to trigger an allergic reaction, while 27.3 mg of fish and 2.5 g of shrimp protein were required to produce a response.

The research said the goal was to find an acceptable level of allergen allowance for foods in order to produce better labeling so that only those most sensitive to certain foods need avoid those with “may contain”-type warnings.

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