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New FAO publication: Food allergies – Leaving no one behind


Food allergies may impact only parts of the world’s population, but that impact can be lethal. People with food allergies have only limited options to prevent allergic reactions, by knowing exactly what causes allergies and avoiding the particular food.

In March 2021, the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific published “Food allergies – Leaving no one behind”. The booklet explains that it is important to manage food allergies within local contexts. It is critical for countries to understand what allergens are common in a particular population, what foods need to be labeled, and how to determine the allowable quantities of food allergens. The text also stresses the importance of the international discussions on the topic, such as the ones currently underway in Codex, with scientific inputs from FAO and WHO.

Codex has considered allergens in food on numerous occasions since the early 1990s. The General Standard for the Labelling of Packaged Foods (GSLPF, 1991) included the list of foods and ingredients known to cause hypersensitivity and since then there have been many scientific developments in the understanding of food allergens and their management. Codex also develops guidance for food business operators such as the Code of Practice on Food Allergen Management for Food Business Operators, adopted in 2020.

Masami Takeuchi is an FAO Food Safety Officer. “Food allergies are so common, yet they are not that simple to manage in the regulatory framework. Multiple factors are involved, such as food consumption patterns and genetics, so it is important to have national or even local data.”

Priority-setting is crucial because it is not realistic to list everything on food labels. The publication shows this through specific country case studies such as the detailed data from Japan highlighting good practices and lessons learned. The booklet also lists practical recommendations for food safety authorities to manage food allergies, such as identifying a mechanism to monitor common food allergens, holding regular discussions with food businesses on food labelling with allergen information, supporting research on diagnostic tools and educating the general public on food allergies.

“The booklet has data and good practices from some countries that can serve as examples. With guidelines and standards developed by Codex, countries will be able to better manage food allergies in the local contexts,” said Takeuchi.


Download the publication:

FAO Food safety toolkit booklet 4 - Food allergies – Leaving no one behind

For more information:

 Editor's note: This article was updated on 29 March 2021 to include ongoing Codex work on food allergen management for food business operators