Allergens to be listed on food labels

Updated: 2011-12-21 09:39

By Zhou Wenting (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Starting in April, all manufacturers of prepackaged food will have to clarify substances that can cause allergies, according to a national regulation for food labels.

The new standard will be compulsory nationwide, and is the first time that the country has included allergens in food safety regulations, according to Fan Yongxiang, an official with the National Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety under the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Approximately 1 to 2 percent of adults and around 5 percent of infants and young children in the country suffer from food allergies, according to Sun Jianqin, director of the nutrition department at Shanghai-based Huadong Hospital affiliated to Fudan University.

China does not have statistics to show how life threatening food allergies are, but figures from the United States government revealed that each year roughly 30,000 individuals require emergency treatment, and 150 individuals die because of allergic reactions to food.

A food allergy is an adverse immune response to food protein. Sufferers usually show acute responses, including vomiting, diarrhea and bronchial asthma.

"It may cause death in severe cases," Sun said.

"Some people are allergic to certain foods in childhood, and improve when they grow older. But it may last a life time for others, so they'd better avoid the food," said Chen Yuzhi, a professor at the Clinical and Education Center for Asthma under the Capital Institute of Pediatrics.

She added that there is no cure for food allergies at present.

Eight major foods or food groups - wheat bran cereals, shellfish, fish, eggs, peanuts, soybeans, milk and tree nuts - account for most food allergies, and they are all included in the mandatory regulation.

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