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Open Access Managing Food Allergens in the U.K. Retail Supply Chain

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The U.K. food and grocery market is highly significant financially and dominated by 10 retailers within a regulated and extremely economically competitive environment. We summarize the approach of U.K. retailers to allergen risk assessment (RA) and risk management (RM) within the U.K. legal framework and explore public visibility of retailers’ allergen policies. RA and RM of allergens appear effective in curtailing retail-triggered severe food allergy reactions. However, allergen recalls remain high, precautionary allergen labeling (PAL) remains an area of confusion, and there is no consistent Web-based provision of information for consumers who have allergies. Resolution of PAL awaits an agreed-on threshold framework, but a key challenge is to engage with patients and gain their trust rather than thrust education at them. It would be helpful for retailers to publish their allergen RA and RM policies. A target should be agreed on between government and retailers for a reduction in the proliferation of PAL wording variants by a given date within the next 3 years. A further hurdle is potentially flawed allergen analysis—development of reference methods and reference materials are acknowledged needs. Laboratories should report allergen results in an informative manner, communicating uncertainty and caveats. Ideally a laboratory representative would be included on any incident control team. Efforts must continue to standardize preparedness for protecting and defending food and drink from deliberate attack.
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Document Type: Editorial

Affiliations: 1: Laboratory of the Government Chemist, Queen’s Rd, Teddington, Middlesex TW11 0LY, United Kingdom 2: Allergy Action, 23 Charmouth Rd, St. Albans AL1 4RS, United Kingdom 3: John Points Consulting Ltd, 28 Priory Road, Newbury RG14 7QN, United Kingdom

Publication date: January 1, 2018

This article was made available online on December 5, 2017 as a Fast Track article with title: "Managing Food Allergens in the U.K. Retail Supply Chain".

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of AOAC INTERNATIONAL publishes refereed papers and reviews in the fields of chemical, biological and toxicological analytical chemistry for the purpose of showcasing the most precise, accurate and sensitive methods for analysis of foods, food additives, supplements and contaminants, cosmetics, drugs, toxins, hazardous substances, pesticides, feeds, fertilizers and the environment available at that point in time. The scope of the Journal includes unpublished original research describing new analytical methods, techniques and applications; improved approaches to sampling, both in the field and the laboratory; better methods of preparing samples for analysis; collaborative studies substantiating the performance of a given method; statistical techniques for evaluating data. The Journal will also publish other articles of general interest to its audience, e.g., technical communications; cautionary notes; comments on techniques, apparatus, and reagents.
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