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NZFSA sets up new allergen working group

12 May 2006

NZFSA sets up new allergen working group

An internal working group of food safety experts at the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) is to examine in more detail issues surrounding allergens and their labelling, and the best ways of informing and educating the public and industry on how to manage them.

The most common food allergens responsible for up to 90% of all allergic reactions are the proteins in cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish and tree nuts.

Allergic reactions to food allergens can vary and range from a mild skin rash to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. The best way to manage a diagnosed food allergy is to avoid foods that contain the allergen.

NZFSA's Ursula Egan, a senior advisor with the organisation's Joint Food Standards Group says: "Food recalls involving allergens are becoming increasingly common. There are also potential issues around managing allergen contamination and emerging new allergens."

Food labels often present information about allergens in different ways – and not all of them are immediately obvious. NZFSA's new working group will look at allergen labelling, risk management strategies for recall procedures, education requirements for industry, laboratories and testing requirements and the regulatory systems and strategies that are in place overseas.

By appointing an internal working group NZFSA will be able to provide consistent and science-based advice to industry and those stakeholders with an interest in allergens, such as Allergy NZ, the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council and the Food Industry Allergen Forum, as well as other government agencies, as and when necessary.

Further information, and other allergy-related website details, are available in factsheet form from NZFSA's website:www.nzfsa.govt.nz/consumers/food-safety-topics/chemicals-in-food/a llergies/index.htm

ENDS

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