MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — The world’s largest study into food allergies has begun at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and will look for ways to reduce cross-contamination with allergens in manufacturing.
The study will involve experts from the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and the United States. The study was prompted by a lack of evidence to either prevent food allergy from developing or protect those who already have allergies.
The Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management, the research sponsored by the European Commission, will produce a standardized management process for companies involved in food manufacturing and will develop tools designed to enforce those regulations and produce recommendations for pregnant women, babies and allergy suffers.
The team from Manchester will work with 38 partners, including industrial stakeholders (Unilever and Eurofins), patient groups and a risk manager and assessor group, including the U.K. Food Standards Agency.
“This is a massive research project that will have far-reaching consequences for consumers and food producers,” said Clare Mills, head of the study and professor at the Allergy and Respiratory Center at the University of Manchester’s Institute of Inflammation and Repair. “The evidence base and tools that result from this will support more transparent precautionary ‘may contain’ labeling of allergens in foods that will make life easier for allergy sufferers as they try to avoid problem foods.”
One of the goals of the study is to help manage food allergens that accidentally become mixed with foods that would otherwise be allergen-free through the use of common processing equipment. New risk models will be developed to support the management of these allergens and to reduce the use of “may contain” labels. The research also will look at how to measure allergens in food to allow for validation and monitoring of allergen management plans. Additionally, researchers will seek to discover who is more likely to have a severe reaction, identify if early introduction of allergens and other nutritional factors may help protect these individuals from developing allergies later in life.
The research is expected to take three years to complete and cost about $11.5 million, building on an earlier $18.3 million study.