Getting Closer to Allergen Threshold Levels

English research about food allergen threshold levels has been published that gives hope to food allergy sufferers.  The research was published Monday, January 12 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.  An overview of the research can be seen here:  http://globalnews.ca/news/1771059/5-common-food-allergies-how-much-is-enough-to-trigger-a-reaction/

Threshold levels are those levels at which someone with a given food allergy will react, even if they are very sensitive.  We already use threshold levels in food production and labeling today with gluten and sulfites.  Both the US and Canada allow foods to be labeled gluten free if they are below 20 parts per million (ppm).  Sulfites need to be labeled if they are above 10 ppm, no labeling is required below that amount.  Both of these levels were tested worldwide, including cumulative levels (how much you’d ingest if eating many of these foods during the day), until cohorts of scientists and regulatory bodies agreed on the International Food Standards Codex, published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):  http://www.codexalimentarius.org/

Way back in November of 2010, I wrote a post about an international group of food allergen scientists who were trying to determine threshold levels for allergen reactions and why it is important.  You can read the original post here:  http://alanaelliott.com/2010/allergen-threshold-levels-being-finalized/

The research has meant that volunteers who are considered very sensitive to particular food allergens are fed their allergens in carefully controlled doses to see at what level a reaction occurs.  I salute those brave individuals who were willing to do this in the name of science.  I know I’d have immense difficulty with someone I loved volunteering for these experiments.

International agreement about threshold levels and then labeling regulations based on those levels has the potential to make life much easier for those with life-threatening food allergies, at least to the top food allergens.  Essentially, a contains or may contain statement could be definitive because it would be based on science and could be applied by all manufacturers.  While testing isn’t the Holy Grail for labeling because a manufacturer must still have robust quality assurance and sanitation procedures in place, it gives us all common ground from which to start.