German allergy experts to focus on prevention plans

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Allergy, Bfr

Allergy experts in Germany met last week to develop a comprehensive
strategy for combating the condition through spreading information
and conducting further research.

Attendees at Tuesdays meeting in Berlin included experts from the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), the Berlin Charit hospital and the University Clinic Heidelberg.

"There are plans to draw together all the available information about the development of allergies and to formulate concrete action options,"​ said BfR president Dr Andreas Hensel in his opening address.

According to the BfR, with the number of allergic disorders on the increase, the time is more than ripe for a concerted action programme to tackle this disease.

Last weeks meeting followed the recent launch of a National Action Plan to Combat Allergies, as announced by the German Federal Consumer Protection Minister Horst Seehofer.

Many questions about what triggers allergies and the related immunological processes have still to be answered. Avoidance strategies are, therefore, particularly important. In this respect it is advantageous to recognise the allergy-triggering potential of critical substances early on,​ said the BfR.

Indeed, with no cure for a food allergy, vigilance by an allergic individual is the only way to prevent a reaction.

An estimated four per cent of adults and eight per cent of children in the 380 million EU population suffer from food allergies, according to the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients' Associations.

And with an increased focus on allergies, the food industry now finds itself in a position of great responsibility. For example, allergen labelling regulations that came into force in the UK in November require companies to label all pre-packed foods if they contain any of the 12 listed allergenic foods as an ingredient.

The mandatory inclusion on food labels of the most common food allergen ingredients and their derivatives covers cereals containing gluten, fish, crustaceans, egg, peanut, soybeans, milk and dairy products including lactose, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seed, and sulphites.

Food companies are consequently a great deal more cautious now; there is growing public awareness about food allergens and a recall can cost millions and irreparably damage a build-up reputation.

Protection of consumers from contact with substances to which they are allergic and also from other substances which may be involved in allergy development could be improved by providing information about problematic constituents in () foods,​ said the BfR at last weeks meeting.

This would give the consumers affected the possibility of consciously choosing or avoiding products and foods in line with their individual allergy situation. Allergy sufferers could thus actively protect themselves from allergenic substances,​ it added.

The BfR also noted that in addition to avoiding contact with allergenic substances, allergies can also be prevented. For instance, breastfeeding has a favourable, preventive impact on certain types of allergy, it said.

BfR said it plans to invite medical associations, universities and other concerned parties to expert meetings in order to examine the subject in greater depth. Furthermore, the Institute is to develop tools for targeted risk communication with a view to offering consumers maximum information and optimum protection.

Related topics: Food safety and labeling

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