August 7, 2006
Those who suffer from latex allergy are warned to avoid everything from balloons and bungee cords to rubber bands and raincoats. Now, packaged food may be another source of concern for this population. A recent study funded by the UK's Food Standards Agency found that latex in food packaging can transfer to the food itself. In the study, published online in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, researchers from Leatherhead Food International, Leatherhead, England, measured the presence of four major latex allergens in 21 types of food packaging. One or more latex allergens were found in seven of the samples. Commercial foods wrapped in these materials were then tested for latex transfer. Three samples showed latex from the packaging had transferred to the food. It is estimated that as little as a billionth of a gram of latex can cause an allergic reaction, which can range from a mild rash to anaphylactic shock. One brand of chocolate biscuit contained 20 times that amount. Ice cream wrappers also contained high levels of latex, as did the ice cream itself.
In response to the study, Graham Lowe, representative, Latex Allergy Support Group, stated: "For a few people, natural rubber latex is a very potent allergen, and for these individuals, there is no safe level of exposure." The group also called for labeling changes for food packaging containing latex.
Currently, under the U.S. Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, food manufacturers must include the common name for the following allergenic substances on food labels: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans.
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