The dangers of precautionary allergy labeling (PAL) have been estimated for Canadian consumers

Previous research has looked at and reported on the alarming variation in allergen levels in foods with a precautionary allergen label (PAL). Researchers in Canada set out to assess the issue in their nation and provide local advice on how to effectively control allergy hazards.    

More than 800 items were evaluated using samples drawn from five different batches of each. ELISA method was used to check for peanuts and/or hazelnuts in the samples. 72% of the items tested for peanuts had a PAL, while a ‘peanut-free' label claim was present on 27%. A PAL referring to tree nuts or hazelnuts appeared on 94% of the goods tested for hazelnut, while a nut-free claim appeared on 6%. Peanuts and hazelnuts were discovered in one or more samples in 4% and 9% of the goods, respectively, indicating considerable intra-lot variability. Furthermore, there was one sample from a cookie that claimed to be peanut-free and tested positive for peanut while there were no items that claimed to be nut-free and tested positive for hazelnut. In one or more lot samples, chocolate goods with a PAL were the most likely to include peanut or hazelnut.    

Manufacturing processes, according to the authors, should be modified to bring food businesses to a better use of PAL based on risk assessments and attempts to reduce cross-contact, as this would avoid the use of PAL to make blanket assertions that are not useful to consumers.    

A probalistic risk assessment analysis for milk in dark chocolate, cookies, and other baked items marketed in Canada with a milk-related PAL was also published independently by the research group. Milk dose-response curves were constructed using previously published data, and Canadian consumption data was collected from a national survey as well as a study of food-allergic Canadians. Milk protein exposures were determined to be 24 mg (dark chocolate), 3.9 mg (baked goods), and 0.20 mg (cookies) per serving. In Canadians with milk allergies, the estimated risk of developing a milk-induced allergic response by ingesting items with PAL for milk was the greatest for dark chocolate (16%), followed by baked products (3.8%) and cookies (0.6%).    

Authors concluded that people with a milk allergy should avoid any of these items that have a milk-related PAL.