Food recalls related to illness outbreaks tend to get a lot of headlines, but undeclared allergens in foods continue to be a leading cause of recalls.
In the past 60 days, there have been 44 food recalls posted by the Food and Drug Administration, with 19 of them for undeclared allergens. That would have by far accounted for the majority of food recalls, had it not been for 10 cheese recalls that involved one manufacturer.
For 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports 34 of the 122 food recalls under its jurisdiction were because of undeclared allergens. That’s more recalls than E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria contamination caused in 2016, which combined accounted for 27 recalls of meat, poultry and catfish in 2016.
The next five-year report is not due from FDA’s Reportable Food Registry until September 2019, but the most recent report posted in 2014 showed undeclared allergen recalls increased from 30 percent of all food recalls in Year 1 to 47 percent in Year 5. The report covered the years from Sept. 8, 2009, through Sept. 7, 2014.
Annually, people in the U.S. made more than 30,000 emergency room visits because of food allergy anaphylaxis, according to the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN). About 150 people die annually because of food allergies.
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 requires that packaged food labels include declarations of the eight major food allergens: eggs, milk, wheat, peanuts, soybeans, tree nuts, fish and crustacean shellfish.
In an ongoing effort to reduce the impact of food allergies in the U.S., the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Friday that is intends to award almost $43 million in the next seven years to the Consortium of Food Allergy Research.
“An estimated 4 percent of adults and 5 percent of children in the United States have food allergy, a condition in which the immune system reacts abnormally to a component of a food,” according to a news release from NIH.
“Allergic symptoms can range from mild reactions, such as hives or stomach cramps, to severe and life-threatening anaphylaxis, characterized by swelling of the larynx, difficulty breathing, and fainting from low blood pressure. The prevalence of food allergy is rising without a known cause, and no U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment for food allergy is yet available.”
Since its establishment in 2005, the Consortium of Food Allergy Research has made progress on treating egg and peanut allergies with immunotherapy. The consortium has also identified genes associated with an increased risk for peanut allergy among Americans of European descent.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)