Trends in the field of food allergies are difficult to pin down to a specific year. They are influenced by a multitude of factors, including long-term research projects.
Nevertheless, here are a few noteworthy trends:
- Prevalence of food allergies It is well documented that the prevalence of food allergies is increasing in western and developing countries.
- Use of allergen thresholds International studies to determine allergen threshold levels are continuous. However, in recent years their use by the food industry to complete risk assessments, and by governments for enforcement, has gained significant momentum.
- Global Harmonisation of foodindustry allergen-management principles Codex Alimentarius is in the process of drafting a code of practice on foodallergen management for food business operators.
- Precautionary allergen labelling statements (PALS) harmonisation A South African study to better understand local consumer understanding of allergen labelling has just been concluded, and a number of international studies are under way. Data will assist the understanding of how best to formulate, standardise and apply PALS, the aim being heightened consumer protection and potential international harmonisation.
- Alternative proteins, novel foods and sustainable packaging material allergenicity The allergenicity of these substances – e.g. black soldier flies, moringa, baobab, pasta straws, etc. – is largely unknown. This may lead to increased pressure on research and on the food industry to characterise and identify new and existing food allergens associated with these products.
- Increased focus on allergen agricultural co-mingling In recent years, various new cases of allergen cross-contamination due to agricultural co-mingling have been reported. This emphasises the need for allergen awareness and product traceability from farm to fork.
- Advances in food-allergy treatment Great advances in food-allergy treatment techniques, including nanotechnology and immunotherapy, have been made in recent years.
- Allergen-related product recalls In 2019, once again, product recalls due to undeclared allergens were reported around the world. It is expected that the trend will continue in 2020.
It is important to note that the food allergen field is constantly evolving, due to scientific advances, research outputs and consumer needs. These are likely to trigger new trends in future, or further support existing ones.