Food allergens are typically naturally-occurring proteins in foods or derivatives of them that cause abnormal immune responses. When an individual eats a certain food, they may have an unpleasant and/or dangerous reaction known as a food allergen. The immune system will release massive amounts of chemicals and trigger symptoms that can affect a person’s breathing, gastrointestinal tract, skin and/or heart.
Prevalence of food allergies around the world is believed to be increasing, with the most common allergens for young children are milk and egg but, fortunately, many children outgrow these allergies by the time they have reached 5-7 years of age. On the other hand, allergies such as those to seafood, peanut and tree nut may develop later and are lifelong conditions.
Despite food allergies affecting only a small proportion of the population, risk management and mandatory product labelling for the key food allergens are critical food safety matters for businesses in the food industry. This is where a responsible food industry with the necessary controls and systems plays an absolutely critical role.