Apart from the prescribed levels for sulphur dioxide (10 parts per million ppm) and gluten (20ppm in gluten-free food), there is no sign of when threshold or 'action levels' for most allergenic foods will emerge, said Dr Mike Bromley, from Genon Laboratories at a free-from seminar in Daventry organised by the Food and Drink Innovation Network last month.
Part of the problem, as highlighted by the e14M Europrevall research project, is that tolerances for allergens vary markedly between countries across the EU. "Different populations displayed different reactive levels," said Bromley. But a further EU e9M research project is scheduled to begin next year to develop an evidence-based risk management approach to food allergens, he said.
"We really do need these threshold levels; they would support the whole food industry," said Bromley. They would enable manufacturers to develop risk management strategies for allergens, he said. However, he doubted the UK would develop its own threshold levels.
Bromley reported that a working group formed by German allergy organisation DGAKI and ADA had proposed thresholds of 1010mg/kg of the allergenic food or 110mg/kg of protein fraction of the allergenic food, but "these have not been adopted" by the industry.
Consumer research reported by Julia Horlov, a partner and head of qualitative research at McCallum Layton, highlighted widespread demand for clearer allergen labelling, with many lauding that provided by Marks & Spencer.