Wheat allergies could become a thing of the past

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Allergy, Allergies

The market for nut or wheat-free bakery products could see a slump
within the next decade if research into the eradication of food
allergies is successful.

Allergy sufferers, forced to shun wheat products and nuts, could be able to indulge thanks to new scientific findings, Dutch researchers have told the BA Festival of Science in England.

Such news however may put the dampeners on the free-from food market that has been enjoying sales growth of over 300 per cent in the UK since 2000, according to market analyst Mintel.

An estimated 4 per cent of adults and 8 per cent of children in the 380m EU population suffer from food allergies, according to the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients' Associations and the specialised free-from baking industry has adapted to meet demand from sufferers.

However, while the eradication of wheat and nut allergies would reduce the free-from snacks and baking market, it could bring about a corresponding rise in standard products.

Wheat allergy is caused by a reaction to proteins found in the grain, it is not known how many suffer from the condition.

Dr. Ronald van Ree from the University of Amsterdam told attendees in Norwich that recent advances in biotechnology have identified the specific molecules in foods that induce food allergies.

Such knowledge could also lead to genetic engineering techniques to change these molecules so that they no longer cause an allergic response, said van Ree.

"Importantly, this allows scientists to develop hypo-allergenic variants of these molecules for application in safer immunotherapy that will induce little or no side-effects."

Allergen labelling regulations that came into force on 25 November require companies to label all pre-packed foods if they contain any of the 12 listed allergenic foods - a list which includes cereals containing gluten, peanut, soybean and sesame seeds.

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