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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, around 2.4 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

Review of allergen analytical testing methodologies: measurement parameters and sensitivity of methods

Food allergies affects between 1-2% of the UK population, with some allergens responsible for hospital admissions with anaphylaxis. Food businesses have a legal responsibility to provide food that is safe, which means declaring allergens present as ingredients and warning consumers about their potential unintended presence due to cross-contact. A system needs to be implemented for testing allergens in foods, responding to incidents, and manage risks to protect consumers. This report explores the current state of the art of allergen testing methodologies and the remaining challenges.

SME allergen provision in the non-prepacked sector

The focus of this research was to understand in more detail how micro and small businesses (SMEs) in the non-prepacked sector provide allergen information to consumers, and the impact of some of the potential changes to the provision of allergen information requirements for SMEs across a variety of service models.

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).