The emergent health issue of food allergens presents an important challenge to the food industry. More than 170 foods have been reported in the scientific literature as causing allergic reactions. Clearly, it would be impossible to deal with the presence of trace amounts of all these in the context of food labeling. If the decision to classify major allergens is based solely on the knowledge and experience of allergists and food scientists in the field, without scientifically defined criteria, it is likely to lead to a proliferation of lists. Such practices may lead to an unnecessary elimination of foods containing important nutrients. This paper defines food allergy, food intolerance, and food anaphylaxis and identifies criteria for classifying food allergens associated with frequent allergic reactions. A practical list of food allergens that may result in potentially life-threatening allergic reactions is provided. A mechanism-based (i.e., immunoglobulin E mediated), acute life-threatening anaphylaxis that is standardized and measurable and reflects the severity of health risk is proposed as the principal inclusion criterion for food allergen labeling. Where available, prevalence in the population and threshold levels of allergens should be used as an additional guide to identify possible future labeling needs.

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