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Acting Workshops

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Ian Gonzalez
Ian Gonzalez


The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall, in the Conference for Food Protection, as part of its efforts to encourage cooperative activities between the States under section 311 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 243), pursue revision of the Food Code to provide guidelines for preparing allergen-free foods in food establishments, including in restaurants, grocery store delicatessens and bakeries, and elementary and secondary school cafeterias. The Secretary shall consider guidelines and recommendations developed by public and private entities for public and private food establishments for preparing allergen-free foods in pursuing this revision.


An allergen is a substance that can cause an allergic reaction. In some people, the immune system recognizes allergens as foreign or dangerous. As a result, the immune system reacts by making a type of antibody called IgE to defend against the allergen. This reaction leads to allergy symptoms.

Stewart GA, Robinson C. The structure and function of allergens. In: Burks AW, Holgate ST, O'Hehir RE, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 26.

The FDA provides guidance to the food industry, consumers, and other stakeholders on best ways to assess and manage allergen hazards in food. The FDA also conducts inspections and sampling to check that major food allergens are properly labeled on products and to determine whether food facilities implement controls to prevent allergen cross-contact (the inadvertent introduction of a major food allergen into a product) and labeling controls to prevent undeclared allergens during manufacturing and packaging. When problems are found, the FDA works with firms to recall products and provide public notification to immediately alert consumers. In addition, the FDA has the authority to seize and remove violative products from the marketplace or refuse entry of imported products.

Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA). This law identified eight foods as major food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.

People with food allergies should read labels and avoid the foods they are allergic to. The law requires that food labels identify the food source of all major food allergens used to make the food. This requirement is met if the common or usual name of an ingredient already identifies that allergen's food source name (for example, buttermilk). The law also requires that the type of tree nut (for example, almonds, pecans, walnuts), and the species of fish (for example, bass, flounder, cod) and Crustacean shellfish (for example, crab, lobster, shrimp) to be declared. The allergen's food source must be declared at least once on the food label in one of two ways.

More than 160 foods have been identified to cause food allergies in sensitive individuals. There are also several food ingredients that cause nonallergic hypersensitivity reactions in sensitive individuals that require specific labeling. For example, in addition to the major food allergens identified by law, the FDA monitors the food supply to determine if other allergens, food ingredients, or food additives pose a significant health risk and acts accordingly. Gluten, certain additives (for example, yellow 5, carmine, sulfites), and other food allergens for which new science has emerged, are examples of other substances the FDA monitors and, in some cases, requires specific labeling for.

The FDA issues guidance documents to provide industry with its current thinking about various issues. Many FDA guidance documents contain information about allergens. Certain food safety regulations also contain provisions related to allergens and other ingredients that may cause sensitivities.

The FDA also receives reports from industry regarding undeclared allergens through the Reportable Food Registry (RFR). For example, from September 2009 to September 2014, about one-third of foods reported to the FDA through the RFR as serious health risks involved undeclared allergens. Of the major food allergens, milk represents the most common cause of recalls due to undeclared allergens. The five food types most often involved in food allergen recalls were bakery products, snack foods, candy, dairy products, and dressings (such as salad dressings, sauces, and gravies). Within the candy category, the FDA has received many reports of undeclared milk in dark chocolate products, highlighting this food type as a higher risk product for consumers allergic to milk.

People with a known food allergy who begin experiencing any of these symptoms should stop eating the food immediately, evaluate the need to use emergency medication (such as epinephrine) and seek medical attention. Some of these symptoms are not always due to a food allergen. So, it is important to seek proper care and diagnosis from a healthcare provider to determine if the symptoms or reaction experienced was due to a food allergen.

An allergen is a type of antigen that produces an abnormally vigorous immune response in which the immune system fights off a perceived threat that would otherwise be harmless to the body. Such reactions are called allergies.

In technical terms, an allergen is an antigen that is capable of stimulating a type-I hypersensitivity reaction in atopic individuals through immunoglobulin E (IgE) responses.[1] Most humans mount significant Immunoglobulin E responses only as a defense against parasitic infections. However, some individuals may respond to many common environmental antigens. This hereditary predisposition is called atopy. In atopic individuals, non-parasitic antigens stimulate inappropriate IgE production, leading to type I hypersensitivity.[citation needed]

Officially, the United States Food and Drug Administration does recognize eight foods as being common for allergic reactions in a large segment of the sensitive population. These include peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, shellfish, fish, wheat and their derivatives, and soy and their derivatives, as well as sulfites (chemical-based, often found in flavors and colors in foods) at 10ppm and over. See the FDA website for complete details. In other countries, due to differences in the genetic profiles of their citizens and different levels of exposure to specific foods resultant from different dietary habits, the "official" allergen lists will vary. Canada recognizes all eight of the allergens recognized by the US as well as sesame seeds[3] and mustard.[4] The European Union additionally recognizes other gluten-containing cereals as well as celery and lupin.

Another allergen is urushiol, a resin produced by poison ivy and poison oak, which causes the skin rash condition known as urushiol-induced contact dermatitis by changing a skin cell's configuration so that it is no longer recognized by the immune system as part of the body. Various trees and wood products such as paper, cardboard, MDF etc. can also cause mild to severe allergy symptoms through touch or inhalation of sawdust such as asthma and skin rash.[5]

If both parents have had allergies in the past, there is a 66% chance for the individual to experience seasonal allergies, and the risk lowers to 60% if just one parent has had allergies.[citation needed] The immune system also has strong influence on seasonal allergies, because it reacts differently to diverse allergens like pollen. When an allergen enters the body of an individual that is predisposed to allergies, it triggers an immune reaction and the production of antibodies. These allergen antibodies migrate to mast cells lining the nose, eyes, and lungs. When an allergen drifts into the nose more than once, mast cells release a slew of chemicals or histamines that irritate and inflame the moist membranes lining the nose and produce the symptoms of an allergic reaction: scratchy throat, itching, sneezing and watery eyes. Some symptoms that differentiate allergies from a cold include:[14]

Among seasonal allergies, there are some allergens that fuse together and produce a new type of allergy. For instance, grass pollen allergens cross-react with food allergy proteins in vegetables such as onion, lettuce, carrots, celery, and corn. Besides, the cousins of birch pollen allergens, like apples, grapes, peaches, celery, and apricots, produce severe itching in the ears and throat. The cypress pollen allergy brings a cross reactivity between diverse species like olive, privet, ash and Russian olive tree pollen allergens. In some rural areas, there is another form of seasonal grass allergy, combining airborne particles of pollen mixed with mold.[15]Recent research has suggested that humans might develop allergies as a defense to fight off parasites. According to Yale University Immunologist Dr Ruslan Medzhitov, protease allergens cleave the same sensor proteins that evolved to detect proteases produced by the parasitic worms.[16] Additionally, a new report on seasonal allergies called "Extreme allergies and Global Warming", have found that many allergy triggers are worsening due to climate change. 16 states in the United States were named as "Allergen Hotspots" for large increases in allergenic tree pollen if global warming pollution keeps increasing. Therefore, researchers on this report claimed that global warming is bad news for millions of asthmatics in the United States whose asthma attacks are triggered by seasonal allergies.[17] Indeed, seasonal allergies are one of the main triggers for asthma, along with colds or flu, cigarette smoke and exercise. In Canada, for example, up to 75% of asthmatics also have seasonal allergies.[18]

Based on the symptoms seen on the patient, the answers given in terms of symptom evaluation and a physical exam, doctors can make a diagnosis to identify if the patient has a seasonal allergy. After performing the diagnosis, the doctor is able to tell the main cause of the allergic reaction and recommend the treatment to follow. 2 tests have to be done in order to determine the cause: a blood test and a skin test. Allergists do skin tests in one of two ways: either dropping some purified liquid of the allergen onto the skin and pricking the area with a small needle; or injecting a small amount of allergen under the skin.[19] 041b061a72


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