FoodDrinkEurope (FDE), the European manufacturers' association, has advised companies in the industry to apply allergen management systems which take into account all operations of the business.
Its latest report titled Guidance on Food Allergen Management for Food Manufacturers highlighted five principles which cover pre-packed foods that might cause consumers to suffer allergies or intolerances.
These five points covered policy and guidance, supply management, manufacturing, people and communication.
Jesus Serafin Perez, president of FDE, said that the scientific understanding surrounding risk from food allergens has increased over the past 20 years and continues to develop. This topic is now well recognised as a food safety issue "which must be managed," he added.
"The food industry has made significant efforts in implementing allergen risk management practices. Whilst reducing unintended exposure of allergic consumers to allergens, this has also led to the spread of advisory labelling. This can reduce the choices available to allergic people, resulting in frustration and risk taking behaviour, which negates its purpose. Advisory labelling on possible cross-contact with allergens is justifiable only on the basis of a risk analysis applied to a responsibly managed operation," Mr Serafin Perez noted.
FDE also pointed out the critical elements in allergen risk management, from people, suppliers, handling of raw materials, equipment and factory design to manufacturing, consumer information, product development and documentation.
Food allergies can be caused by almost any product when the immune system mistakenly treats the proteins found in it as a threat to the body.
Most food allergies in children are caused by milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish, according to the NHS. Adults on the other hand are known to suffer reactions to some types of fruit like apples, pears and peaches, vegetables like potatoes and celery, crustaceans, tree nuts, peanuts and fish.
According to the NHS, rates of food allergies have risen sharply in the last 20 years, although it is unclear why this has occurred.