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Food Quality and Safety in Europe



Developed countries have seen a marked increase in the numbers of people of all ages, but especially children, who suffer from food allergies. Allergies to foods, such as cereals, eggs, dairy products, nuts and fish cause symptoms ranging from mild shortness of breath to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. Yet the underlying reasons for the apparent growth in the prevalence of the condition are not really understood, nor do we know why some people develop allergies and others do not. We do not even have reliable figures about the incidence and growth of allergies.

The EU has started a major four-year integrated project, EUROPREVALL, which will increase our understanding of the demographic patterns of allergies and their impact, and seek a holistic management of its symptoms for sufferers. It involves over fifty food, medical and agricultural research organisations throughout the EU, including some from new Member States.


The project will investigate the patterns and prevalence of food allergies throughout Europe, by surveying a large number of newborn children in five centres, and cross-sectional groups of adults and children in at least nine and possibly ten other centres. This will reveal any regional variations and determine which children 'grow out' of allergies and which do not. These broad studies will be complemented by more detailed investigations of referrals to 12 allergy clinics. All the information obtained will be analysed to try and identify risk factors for food allergy. They could be environmental, resulting from food eaten, infections or pollen in the air. Genetic or microbial sources are other possible triggers, as is exposure as a foetus to some sensitising influence.

The project is looking for new biochemical or genetic predictive markers for allergies. These would make it easier to adopt preventative measures, for example, during pregnancy. Current procedures for diagnosing allergies are cumbersome and unreliable. EUROPEVALL is investigating better tests to replace 'challenge' tests in which sufferers or samples of their tissue are exposed to allergenic material. The candidate tests are serological, using purified food allergens and novel detection with peptide or protein chips, as well as more conventional methods. Detection will also depend on a library of wellanalysed allergens, ranked according to the severity of the reactions they induce. The new tests will improve diagnosis and reduce the impact of allergies.


Another question is whether increasing consumption of more highly processed foods has played a part in the growth of allergic response or the severity of reactions. The whole food matrix will be investigated and the possibility of harnessing food processing to reduce allergenicity will be considered. This work will be linked to international studies of whether threshold values can be established for allergenic foods. One effect would be to improve food labelling and help the food industry, which now incurs high costs in implementing strategies to manage food allergies.

All in all, food allergies impose a high cost on individuals and society, in terms of reduced quality of life and economic losses due to symptoms and the stress of living with the condition. The improved management and control of food allergies that will result when EUROPREVALL results are gathered in should hep to reduce this impact. The consensus position on the best way to reduce the incidence and effect of food allergy offers the hope of reversing the trend of increasing food allergies. The results will be published widely and training materials will be prepared for patients, health professionals and the food industry.

List of Partners

  • Institute of Food Research (UK)
  • Sanquin Blood Supply (UK)
  • King's College London (UK)
  • Wageningen University (The Netherlands)
  • Charité Universitätsmedizin, Berlin (Germany)
  • University Hospital Zurich (Switzerland)
  • Institut National de la Recherche (France)
  • Danish Institute for Food and Veterinary Research (Denmark)
  • Consorzio Interuniversitario Risonanze Magnetiche e Metalloproteine (Italy)
  • Agricultural University of Athens (Greece)
  • Consiglio Nazionale delle Recerche - Istituto di Scienze delle Produzioni Alimentari (Italy)
  • Medical University of Lodz (Poland)
  • Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospital NHS Trust (UK)
  • Agrotechnology and Food Innovations (The Netherlands)
  • Paul-Erlich-Institut (Denmark)
  • Rothamsted Research (UK)
  • Unilever UK Central Resources (UK)
  • Fundación para la Investigación Biomédica del Hospital Clínico San Carlos (Spain)
  • Nestlé Research Centre (Switzerland)
  • Kraft Foods R&D Inc. (Denmark)
  • Medical University of Vienna (Austria)
  • National & Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece)
  • University of Southampton (UK)
  • EFA European Federation of Asthma and Allergy Associations (Belgium)
  • University Medical Centre, Utrecht (The Netherlands)
  • EHI-EuroHandelinstitut GmbH (Germany)
  • Tepnel BioSystems (UK)
  • BIOMAY Produktions- und Handelsaktiengesellschaft (Austria)
  • Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research, Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland)
  • Aarhus School of Business (Denmark)
  • VBC-Genomics Bioscience Research (Austria)
  • University of East Anglia (UK)
  • University Hospital Groningen (The Netherlands)
  • Pharmacia Diagnostics AB (Sweden)
  • RefLab ApS (Denmark)
  • Anaphylaxis Campaign (UK)
  • Medical University, Sofia (Bulgaria)
  • Faculty Hospital in Hradec Králové, Charles University Prague, (Czech Republic)
  • Vilnius University (Lithuania)
  • IP Pragmatics (UK)
  • Stichting het Nederlands Anafylaxis Netwerk (The Netherlands)
  • Leiden University Medical Centre (The Netherlands)
  • Technical University of Denmark (Denmark)
  • Istituto Clinico San Carlo (Italy)
  • University of Maastricht (The Netherlands)
  • Hôpitaux Universitaires de Strasbourg (France)
  • Department of Allergy, Respiratory Medicine and Sleep, University Hospital Rekjyavik, (Iceland)
  • Hospital Universitario La Paz, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (Spain)
  • GSF National Research Centre for Environment and Health (Denmark)
  • Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (Ghana)
  • Hospitality and Leisure Manpower (UK)
  • Hospital of the Hospitasller Brothers of St. John of God (Hungary)
Full title:
The prevalence, cost and basis of food allergies across Europe
Contract n°:
Project co-ordinator:
Clare Mills, Institute of Food Research,
EC Scientific Officer:
Ana Nieto Nuez,
Ebba Barany,
EU contribution:
€ 14.3M
Integrated Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top