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Food hypersensitivity

What is the impact of food hypersensitivity (including allergies and intolerance) and how can we reduce it?

In the UK, an estimated two million people are living with a diagnosed food allergy, and 600,000 with Coeliac Disease. The Food Hypersensitivity Area of Research Interest (ARI) aims to improve the quality of life for people living with food hypersensitivities and support them to make safe and informed choices to effectively manage risk. The ARI includes several key themes of work: 

  • Development of management thresholds for allergenic foods 
  • Immunological aspects of food allergy 
  • Characteristics of food allergy across the life course 
  • Food allergen labelling and consumer confidence and choice research 
  • Evaluation of FSA allergy guidance 

The major aims of this ARI include: 

  • Facilitating the development of allergen management thresholds for use by industry and regulators 
  • Determining the prevalence of food allergy across the UK adult population 
  • Understanding the information needs for consumers with food hypersensitivity when shopping and eating outside of home 
  • Identifying where businesses need support in provision of allergen information and implementing best practice allergen management  

The work of this ARI helps inform policy so that food businesses can implement best practice in terms allergen information provision and practices in their kitchens, and to help food hypersensitive consumers make safe and informed choices when shopping and eating out of the home. 


Research projects related to the programme

Food Sensitive Study: Wave Two Survey

The aim of this survey was to characterise the management of FH of individuals living in the UK and evaluate the resultant impact on their Quality of life.

Precautionary Allergen Labelling Report and Non-Gluten Containing Ingredients Labelling Report

This research explored experiences, interpretations, and views of PAL (Precautionary Allergen Labelling) with businesses and consumers with food hypersensitivities in order to understand and improve how it is applied in future. Qualitative research was also conducted with coeliac consumers on experiences, interpretations, and views of NCGI (non-gluten containing ingredients) notices. This research was carried out in tandem with wider research on PAL notices, but has been reported separately given the different information provided by PAL and NCGI.

Risk analysis and Precautionary Allergen Labelling research report

This research aimed to understand the extent to which allergen risk analysis is conducted by micro, small, and medium sized (SME) food businesses, and whether this informs the use of Precautionary Allergen Labelling (PAL). It had a specific focus on whether risk assessment and the identification critical points of allergen cross-contact were undertaken.

Food Sensitive Study (Quality of Life) Wave 1 Report

This report presents the findings from a survey commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and delivered by Aston University to explore how people living with food hypersensitivities (FHS) such as allergy, intolerance and coeliac disease, are affected by these conditions in their daily lives.

The food industry’s provision of allergen information to consumers

This study explored the current provision of information on allergenic ingredients by food businesses to consumers for non-prepacked food, and how this has changed since legislative changes came into force in 2014. The study also provides a new baseline on information provided for food prepacked for direct sale (PPDS).

Development of a Food Recall Prevention Platform

This project aims to reduce food allergy alerts by developing a software to help food businesses ensure accurate declaration of food allergens. It will provide a systematic determination of undeclared food allergens to enable food businesses to improve their food allergen management and enhance food traceability along the supply chain.

PIFA: Revisiting the UK EuroPrevall cohort

This project is revisiting the UK EuroPrevall birth cohort which involves reassessing the same cohort at 8-9 years as part of the larger iFAAM (Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen & Allergy Risk Management) project.

Patterns and Prevalence of Adult Food Allergy

This project has been set up to provide a step-change in our understanding of food allergy in adulthood by determining its prevalence in the adult population. It will provide data to allow the trajectories of the condition in relation to both persistent allergy from childhood and adult-onset food allergy to be described, together with adverse reactions to foods that are not mediated by IgE.

EU FIC allergen legislation research (February 2015)

Research tracking awareness EU Food Information for Consumers (FIC) allergen information regulations before and after they came into force in December 2014. The regulations concern how allergy information is displayed on prepackaged and loose food as well as how it is provided in restaurants, takeaways and all eating establishments.

Quantitative risk assessment of food products cross-contaminated with allergens

This project aimed to investigate the public health risks posed by the levels of unintended allergens found to be present in foods sampled and tested as part of the FSA funded survey of allergen advisory labelling (project FS241038) using a quantitative risk assessment approach based on probabilistic principles.

The effect of extrinsic factors on food allergy

This was a randomised cross-over trial that investigated whether common extrinsic factors, such as exercise and sleep deprivation can modulate the threshold of responses to allergenic foods in a representative group of adults from the peanut allergic population.

Further data analysis of the EAT study

The EAT data analysis project was funded to further explore the EAT study dataset, by investigating whether the introduction of solids has an impact on sleep behaviour of infants. It was also to further understand the factors that impact on the ability of infants’ families to follow an early food introduction regime.