May is Food Allergy Month and this week is Allergen Awareness Week. For the approximate 15 million Americans that have some sort of food allergy, it can be an exhausting task to grocery shop. Each aisle might feel a bit like a minefield. Carefully negotiating the vast array of products to ensure they can find the right foods for themselves and their families may bring stress and trepidation.
On the production side, it can also be daunting for food producers to think about successfully handling allergens in their production process, including the possibility of cross-contamination. Daunting as it may be, lives depend on food processors getting a handle on food allergen concerns and ensuring their products are labeled correctly. Consumers depend on producers to help them negotiate the minefield of allergens and deliver them to the checkout with a sense of security and peace that they have purchased the right food for themselves and their loved ones.
A good deal of emphasis is placed on the so-called “Big 8” allergens: milk, egg, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy. Nelson-Jameson stocks a variety of allergen testing supplies that are important parts to an operation’s needs. Recently, Neogen just released the new, long awaited, Reveal Multi-Tree Nut Allergen Test Kit that tests for cashews, pecans, almonds, pistachio, hazelnuts and walnuts.
At Nelson-Jameson we are always here to help give you peace of mind when dealing with the allergen issues that face us, so that your customers can feel some peace of mind, too.
For those dealing with food allergies, navigating grocery stores, restaurants, etc. can seem like a daunting task. Checking labels, ingredients, menu items, etc. can be a tiring and sometimes anxiety-producing process. As food producers, it can be tough to fathom the spectrum of allergies our customers may have to contend with, from mild reactions all the way to severe, life-threatening reactions. Recently, some new information has recast light and focus on this critical responsibility for food industry interests.
The FDA reported recently that in 2012, allergens were the number one cause of food safety reports in the United States. Topping Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, allergens were responsible for “37.9% of reports in 2012, Salmonella 28.1% and Lm 21.4%.” The top spot was held by Salmonella in both 2010 and 2011. This information joins a much larger focus on allergens as a larger public health issue. For instance, in the National Center for Health Statistics’ brief, “Trends in Allergic Conditions Among Children: United States, 1997-2011,” released in May of 2013, it states that: “Among children aged 0–17 years, the prevalence of food allergies increased from 3.4% in 1997–1999 to 5.1% in 2009–2011.”
One can assume that considerable attention will be focused on allergens as a primary food safety concern in the coming years. In the meantime, what can individual producers, the food industry, regulators, and even consumers do to confront this growing concern? What do you think the future has in store for the industry when it comes to food allergens? We would love to hear your thoughts…please feel free to post any responses, ideas, etc. on the subject.