Milk ‘most commonly undeclared’ food allergen – research

By Teodora Lyubomirova contact

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages/Drazen Zigic
GettyImages/Drazen Zigic

Related tags: allergens, Labelling, Cow’s milk, Milk, Soy

Analysis of hundreds of FDA-recalled food and drink products revealed that undeclared milk had been the most likely reason why products were pulled from shelves.

YorkTest, a food intolerance and allergy company, analyzed product recall data from the Food and Drug Administration to find out what ingredients were most commonly left out from labels.

The researchers scrutinized more than 620 products that were recalled due to undeclared allergens since 2017, and ranked the ingredients according to how often these were found to be missing from food labels.

According to the data, milk was the most common reason why food and drinks products had to be recalled, with around 40% of recalls due to undeclared milk. Egg ranked second, accounting for 18% of food recalls, with soy coming third.

Life-threatening

If an allergen is not listed on the label of a food or drink product that otherwise contains it, consuming the product could be life-threatening for someone who is allergic to the undeclared ingredient. An estimated 32 million Americans have some form of food allergy, with around 200,000 requiring emergency medical care each year due to a food allergy. Meanwhile, about 15.5 million people in the US may be living with a dairy-restricted diet, or one in 20, according to research.*

The list of the 10 most commonly-omitted allergens also contained fish, peanut, wheat and sulfites.

Kerri Ferraioli, expert nutritionist at YorkTest, commented: “The fact that seven of the eight most common ingredients responsible for the majority of severe allergic reactions in the US also appear in the top 10 list of undeclared ingredients is incredibly concerning. People may be eating something they may otherwise avoid had the product been accurately labeled and as we can see from this research, this can have life-threatening consequences for those with a food allergy.

“Those with food sensitivities can also struggle, with no way of managing their symptoms if food and drink products aren’t properly labeled and declared. Manufacturers need to take greater care in the labeling and declaration of their products to reduce the risk of reaction among those with allergies or sensitivities.”

Below is the list of the 20 allergens that had been most commonly omitted from food labels since 2017 (and in brackets, the number of recalls they had triggered).

1. Milk (244)
2. Egg (113)
3. Soy (76)
4. Peanut (72)
5. Wheat (61)
6. Sulfites (41)
7. Almond (38)
8. Fish (24)
9. Walnut (22)
10. Cashew (19)
11. Pecan (17)
12. Coconut (9)
13. Tree nuts (9)
14. Hazelnut (7)
15. Anchovies (5)
16. Pine nuts (5)
17. Crustacean (4)
18. Gluten (4)
19. Shellfish (4)
20. Shrimp (4)

*Source: The US population-level burden of cow's milk allergy
World Allergy Organ J. 
Published online 2022 Apr 21.
DOI: 10.1016/j.waojou.2022.100644

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