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23 September 2020
Allergy, Food Allergy
- Research Projects, - Food Safety

In Europe, 17 million people live with food allergies, and the safest option available today remains avoiding the food they are allergic to. Yet this requires patients to be constantly looking for information on allergens.

In reality, food allergen information is in many cases difficult to obtain and patients and their caregivers feel forced to develop their own safety strategies, resulting in a higher level of social isolation and discrimination. For this reason, the EU Regulation on Food Information to Consumers adopted in 2011 introduced a harmonisation on the way allergens are labelled, however, there are still gaps between patients’ needs and the information provided by food operators. 

1 in 5 Europeans live with a food allergy, and gaps in regulation across the production line causes life-threatening risks for these people. To establish recommendations for regulators and food processors, EFA launched the Food DETECTives project, an initiative that provides recommendations to improve quality of life for people with food allergies.

There is no cure for food allergies, so people living one must avoid eating the food that causes them an allergic reaction. There are 7 million Europeans, mostly under 25 years old, who are allergic to some kind of food.

In practice, avoiding the offending food can be difficult. This is directly linked to the existing gap between patients’ needs and the current regulatory framework. Despite the 2014 EU Regulation on Food Information to Consumers, there is no guidance for regulators on how to implement this at national level.

In 2019 EFA launched the Food DETECTives project, our first project focused only on food allergy, to be able to best inform and give recommendations to regulators and all who have an impact on the quality of life of people with food allergies.

The ultimate goal of the project is to improve the Quality of Life of patients and their caregivers, reduce feelings of discrimination and social isolation, and prevent terrifying and life-threatening events.

The Food Detectives report provides recommendations for EU and national regulators

In close collaboration with the expert patients in EFA’s Food Allergy Working Group, EFA collected the implementation of the EU Regulation on Food Information to Consumers and its rules on food allergen labelling at national level, as well as life experiences with food allergy.

We closely worked on clinical data with top reseachers from the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology (EAACI), the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) and Fundació Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona as well as other organisations such as the Association of European Coeliac Societies (AOECS), Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and ILSI Europe.

Additionally, EFA held bilateral discussion and organised a rountable with food operators represented at EU level such as FoodDrinkEurope, Food Service Europe, Hospitality Europe and Serving Europe, to present them with the issues encountered by our community of food allergy patients and also to gather their views on food allergen management.

The result is the report “Quality of Life of people with food allergies in Europe: A menu for improvement”. The report provides with a set of recommendations for policymakers, public health authorities, the food industry, healthcare professionals, patient associations, and food allergic patients with the aim to close the legislative gaps.

The full report is available here.  

EFA food allergen management To-Do list addressed to food business operators

As part of the Food DETECTives Report, EFA collected information on the existing gaps in food allergen management and developed a priority list of things to improve addressed to food operators working in prepacked and non-prepacked food providers across the food supply chain.

Better management and stricter control of food allergens and their traces in kitchens and throughout the manufacturing process could safeguard correct and accurate communication of allergen information for consumers. Only good practices, tracing and information can help people with allergies make accurate food choices and protect themselves against allergic reactions.

The to-do list is available in Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, English, German, Icelandic, Serbian, Spanish, and Swedish.

The Food DETECTives Report is launched at the European Parliament

On 12 December 2019, EFA launched the “Quality of Life for People with Food Allergies in Europe: A Menu for Improvement” report at the European Parliament in Brussels.

EFA brought together EU policymakers, representatives of Member States and national food authorities, representatives of food business operators, and patient leaders from organisations active in food allergies.

Hosted by Members of the European Parliament Stelios Kympouropoulos (EPP, Greece) and Sylwia Spurek (S&D, Poland), the participants to the event engaged in discussions ranging from the implementation of the FIC Regulation at the national level, to better food labelling and future research directions.

More detailed information about the event, the program and the speakers can be found here.

The Food Detectives project is presented at EAACI 2020 Congress

An abstract in a poster format was submitted and accepted at the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) Congress 2020 during the Late Breaking Thematic Poster Session.

The abstract is published in the online edition of the Allergy Journal here, under the name “1798|Food detectives: Quality of life, food allergen labelling and EU law”, as well as in the online programme of the Congress here and on the EAACI Media Library here.