The Need For Food Allergen Management Programmes in the Nigerian Food Industry.
A food allergy is when one's immune system reacts to a harmless food product or its components because it has mistaken that food or its components as a threat. It can also be said to be an abnormal response to a food consumed and is often triggered by the immune system. Adults and children can have food allergy. According to research, food allergy affects up to 6% children and 4% adults globally. So far, 170 different types of food have been identified to cause allergic reaction where foods such as peanuts, wheat, eggs, tree nuts, soybeans, and some sea foods have caused over 90% of all allergenic reactions. In Nigeria, paucity of data on food allergens makes it extremely difficult to determine the foods some are allergic to and the prevalence of food allergy in the country. As a result, many food companies find the management of food allergens difficult.
The changes in consumer preference for prepackaged convenience food have made it the duty of government and food companies to identify, regulate and label products for possible allergens for consumer safety. But the first step to reducing the risk of allergen contamination is to understand what food allergy is, the different types of allergenic foods and then relevant stakeholders should develop a comprehensive allergen management plan/programme to mitigate the risks of food allergy. This article attempts to create awareness on the prevalence of food allergy in Nigeria, why and how relevant stakeholders (Consumers, Food companies and Government) should intensify efforts on the need for allergen management in the Nigerian food Industry.