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July 29th, 2020
Food Allergens? Always a hot food safety topic

Undeclared allergens are a very well-known leading cause of food recalls in Europe and U.S. in particular, with heavy consequences not only on consumers’ health but also on food industries, in terms of costs for product recalls and brand image.

It is quite difficult to quantify the economic burden of food allergy, as it affects several aspects that are not easy to quantify in a harmonized way.
What is certain is that this burden is huge and is mostly due to some groups of food allergens that are the most frequent causes of alerts. 
By using the tool Safety HUD by Mérieux NutriSciences, which identifies risks and food frauds worldwide by monitoring more than 90 official sources, we observed a scale-up in the number of alerts due to undeclared allergens in the last 3 years.
By considering the period spanning from the beginning of 2017 to the end of 2019, we observed 184 alerts in 2017, 650 in 2018, and 1980 in 2019. Of the total number 2164, 1/3 was due to European RASFF only. 
The top-3 food allergens are no news in the food allergens scenario, with milk including lactose on the top of the list, followed by gluten and tree nuts.
o Milk: 45 (26 milk + 6 lactose +13 milk proteins)
o Tree nuts: 33 (17 peanuts + 3 hazelnuts + 9 walnuts + 4 almond)
o Gluten: 22 - 31 if considering wheat (9)
o Milk: 155 (137 milk + 8 lactose +10 milk proteins)
o Tree nuts: 114 (34 peanuts + 28 hazelnuts + 15 walnuts + 24 almond + 1 Brazil nuts + 5 pistachio + 7 cashew)
o Gluten: 22 - 47 if considering wheat (25)
o Milk: 275 (227 milk + 14 lactose + 34 milk proteins), 
o Tree nuts: 208 (103 peanuts + 19 hazelnuts + 24 walnuts + 35 almond + 1 Brazil nuts + 5 Pecan nuts + 2 Macadamia nuts + 6  pistachio + 13 cashew)
o Gluten: 151 - 221 if considering wheat (70)
As regards 2020, the first 6 months have shown a similar trend in comparison to the same period in 2019 (716 alerts vs 706 in 2019), but this data is quite challenging to comment, as it is not completely clear yet, to what extent the Covid crisis and the new dynamics in the monitoring activity, have impacted on food safety.
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