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Plenary – A Global Overview and Update on Food Allergies
Food allergies have now secured their place as a well-recognized public health issue especially in the more highly developed countries in the world. In recent years, the Codex Committee on Food Labeling and the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene have both begun to address the issue of food allergens through the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the Food & Agricultural Organization/World Health Organization. An expert panel was convened in late 2020 to begin to address the key issues related to food allergen labeling and allergen control: the global list of priority allergenic foods, thresholds and the establishment of Reference Doses, and the application of Precautionary Allergen Labeling (PAL). The panel’s work is still ongoing at the time of the symposium and the intermediary recommendations and conclusions are embargoed. But, clearly, global interest is at an all-time high. Country- and region-specific allergen lists have proliferated and are not always evidence-based. In my opinion, decisions about priority lists should be made on the basis of prevalence, potency and severity but data supporting these attributes are often incomplete. Data leading to the possible establishment of population thresholds have proliferated in recent years and may allow the establishment of Reference Doses. The pioneering work of the Allergen Bureau of Australia & New Zealand in establishment of Reference Doses based on population thresholds to guide the use of PAL (the Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labeling or VITAL program) serve as an example. The global food industry is taking a stronger interest in usage of VITAL. Many improvements could still be made in allergen labeling and allergen control and especially in the reliability and consistency of allergen residue testing methods.