The world’s largest-ever food allergy study has just launched. Called iFAAM, the study involves leading allergy experts from the U.K., United States, Europe and Australia, as well as food manufacturers and patient groups. It will delve into potential causes of food allergies and zero in on ways to reduce risk for people with severe food allergies.
“This is a massive research project which will have far-reaching consequences for consumers and food producers,” said professor Clare Mills of the University of Manchester’s Allergy and Respiratory Centre and the new head of the $14 million iFAAM study, which stands for Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management.
One of the main goals of iFAAM is to reduce the use precautionary “may contain” labels on packages to those food products which truly require the label. As ‘may contains’ have flourished in the marketplace, the choices for food-allergic consumers have become increasingly limited. The researchers plan to develop standardized processes and enforcement rules for European food manufacturers to follow to reduce risks of cross-contamination with allergens, and streamline processes to test foods for allergens.
Another section of the study will attempt to explain why individuals develop food allergies. A research group will examine whether the early introduction of allergenic foods in a baby’s diet and other nutritional aspects play a role. A related group of researchers will try to identify who is more likely to suffer a severe allergic reaction, and whether diet during pregnancy is related to the onset of food allergy in infants.
This study builds on $21.9 million worth of research from the EuroPrevall project, which Mills also headed and which focused on food allergy prevalence across Europe.