The Allergen Bureau has developed a Food Allergen Fundamentals resource which provides an introduction to the core allergen principles for the food industry, including dairy.
Covering background information about food allergies and food intolerances and regulatory requirements, including labelling, the resource is a handy tool for dairy processors.
A food allergy is an overreaction by the body’s immune system to a certain food. The body produces antibodies against a food protein and releases histamine and other chemicals causing inflammation.
Most food allergens are proteins. A food may comprise of one or more allergenic proteins. Cow’s milk contains allergenic proteins in the whey fraction and different allergenic proteins in the casein fraction. Individuals may be allergic to only one milk protein or more.
A person who is lactose intolerant cannot digest the sugar component in milk. This is different to an allergy to milk protein. Declaring milk on a label informs individuals with milk allergy and those with lactose intolerance of the presence of the protein and the lactose.
Consumers rely on the allergen information on labels, so it is important the information is clear and consistent. The ‘Food Industry Guide to Allergen Management and Labelling’ (FIGAML) provides guidance on ‘allergen labelling best practice’ and effective allergen communication.