Identifying key priorities for research to protect the consumer with food hypersensitivity: A UK Food Standards Agency Priority Setting Exercise

Paul J. Turner*, Matthew J Ridd, John O'Brien, et al.

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

Introduction
Food hypersensitivity (FHS), including food allergy, coeliac disease and food intolerance, is a major public health issue. The Food Standards Agency (FSA), an independent UK Government department working to protect public health and consumers’ wider interests in food, sought to identify research priorities in the area of FHS.

Methods
A priority setting exercise was undertaken, using a methodology adapted from the James Lind Alliance—the first such exercise with respect to food hypersensitivity. A UK-wide public consultation was held to identify unanswered research questions. After excluding diagnostics, desensitization treatment and other questions which were out of scope for FSA or where FSA was already commissioning research, 15 indicative questions were identified and prioritized by a range of stakeholders, representing food businesses, patient groups, health care and academia, local authorities and the FSA.

Results
295 responses were received during the public consultation, which were categorized into 70 sub-questions and used to define 15 key evidence uncertainties (‘indicative questions’) for prioritization. Using the JLA prioritization framework, this resulted in 10 priority uncertainties in evidence, from which 16 research questions were developed. These could be summarized under the following 5 themes: communication of allergens both within the food supply chain and then to the end consumer (ensuring trust in allergen communication); the impact of socio-economic factors on consumers with FHS; drivers of severe reactions; mechanism(s) underlying loss of tolerance in FHS; and the risks posed by novel allergens/processing.

Discussion
In this first research prioritization exercise for food allergy and FHS, key priorities identified to protect the food-allergic public were strategies to help allergic consumers to make confident food choices, prevention of FHS and increasing understanding of socio-economic impacts. Diagnosis and treatment of FHS was not considered in this prioritization.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalClinical and Experimental Allergy
Early online date7 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at www.icmje.org/coi_disclosure.pdf and declare competing interests as follows: PJT reports grants from the Food Standards Agency, JM Charitable Foundation, Medical Research Council, NIHR/Imperial Biomedical Research Centre and End Allergies Together, outside the submitted work; personal fees from UK Food Standards Agency, Aimmune Therapeutics, AllerGenis and ILSI Europe outside the submitted work. JB reports personal fees and grants from Food Standards Agency, outside the submitted work. SC reports financial activities with Unilever, outside the submitted work. KC is an independent facilitator and senior adviser to the James Lind Alliance. She is co‐author/editor of the JLA Guidebook and supports the JLA Secretariat and team of JLA advisers. She was an independently contracted adviser for this work. MF reports personal fees from Aimmune Therapeutics and Danone outside the submitted work. ATF is current President of the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology (BSACI) and Chair of the Health Advisory Board of Allergy UK, both of which receive corporate sponsorship from companies involved in food allergy. He also reports consultancy work with Aimmune, without receiving a personal fee. MHG reports personal fees from Food Standards Agency (as a subcontractor), outside the submitted work. IK reports personal fees from Food Standards Agency, outside the submitted work. J’OB John O'Brien is a trustee of the Institute of Food Science & Technology, a member of the non‐executive board of Campden BRI, and Director of the Food Observatory; personal fees from Food Standards Agency, outside the submitted work. GR reports grants from European Union and Food Standards Agency outside the submitted work; he is also President Elect of the BSACI. CV reports grants from National Peanut Board; grants and personal fees from Reckitt Benckiser; personal fees from Nestle Nutrition Institute, Danone, Abbott Nutrition, INTENT Study, and Else Nutrition, outside the submitted work. The other authors do not report any conflicts of interest.

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the UK Food Standards Agency. The funders had no role in data collection, data analysis, data interpretation or writing of the report.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Keywords

  • allergen labelling
  • coeliac disease
  • food allergy
  • James Lind Alliance
  • research prioritization

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