Food suppliers expand the range of allergy-free products

Allergy UK, a charitable organisation that aims to raise awareness of the many problems allergies can cause, have warned of an alarming rise in the number of consumers reporting allergy problems.

This affects all sectors of the food supply chain: wholesale food suppliers have to increase the range of allergy-free products to remain competitive and satisfy increasingly knowledgeable shoppers looking for suitable products from retailers. Restaurants and catering organisations are also adapting their menus by offering allergy-free dishes.

A recent paper from the European Academy for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) suggests the rise in allergies can be attributed to an increasingly sterile western lifestyle, describing the increase as a major threat to public health. Hospital admissions for food allergies have risen 500 per cent over the last few years and, at the extreme end of the prediction it is estimated that if allergy rates continue at current rates, almost one in two people will be allergic to some foodstuffs by around 2030.

The overall choice of allergy-free staple foods has widened to meet the increased demand, particularly in everyday staples, with a wide range of bread, cereals, pasta and cakes carrying the gluten-free or wheat-free label. One manufacturer now supplies 50 different products, up from around 10 products a couple of years ago, encompassing both food intolerances and food allergies.

It is essential that production methods ensure a complete separation between those products which can cause an allergic or anaphylactic reaction to avoid cross-contamination in the factory.