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Food Allergies – A new trial begins

Food allergies are in the spotlight once again. It has just been revealed that a new food allergy immunotherapy trial has been set up. The clinical trial, which aims to make food allergies a thing of the past, has been launched by the parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse. The 15 year-old died after consuming a sandwich containing sesame, to which she was allergic. The sandwich packaging had not been labelled with the allergen.

Following Natasha’s death, the UK’s food allergen labelling legislation was updated to include foods which are termed Pre-packed for Direct Sale (PPDS). The new legislation is commonly referred to as ‘Natasha’s Law.’

Food allergen and Natasha’s Law courses from VWA

Verner Wheelock’s Natasha’s Law online course has already helped several businesses who are selling or serving food to understand the new law and ensure that the products they sell comply with it. For food manufacturers large and small, we also run a Managing Food Allergens in Manufacturing course, which is also available in-house at customers’ own premises.

Around the time of the legislation, the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation was founded by companies such as Greggs, Morrisons, Pret a Manger, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and others. It is this charity which is funding the £2.2M research at the University of Southampton. The trial is beginning clinical immunotherapy trials with milk and peanuts. It is hoped that taking a small dose of these allergens, over time and under medical supervision, will enable people to eventually become tolerant of them.

What are the main food allergy symptoms?

Allergens are considered together with chemical, microbiological and physical hazards when developing a food safety management system. Food allergy symptoms can range from rashes and hives to swollen lips, face, tongue and throat, vomiting, diarrhoea and severe breathing difficulties. In extreme situations, as in Natasha’s case, it can lead to death. This can be avoided if all food handlers are aware of the allergens in their products, take care to avoid cross contamination between products  and communicate effectively with the end user, either via packaging, menus or verbally with customers.  

There are currently 14 allergens which need to be highlighted on packaging. These are peanuts, milk, cereals containing gluten, eggs, crustaceans, fish, sesame, mustard, lupin, sulphur dioxide (sulphites), celery, nuts, soya and molluscs. When labelling your products with food allergens, you need to consider not only your ingredients, but also those of your suppliers. Please also be aware of any changes or substitutions in recipes. You can find out more on the Natasha’s Law online course.