Consumers should not be alarmed by recent reports on the harmful contamination of food by latex allergens in packaging, according to IOP: The Packaging Society, a division of IOM3.
Reports in the media have warned that individuals suffering from latex allergies may be at risk, following a study conducted by Leatherhead Food International. The research suggested that about one third of products tested contained latex allergens. It has also been quoted as saying that the quantity in an unnamed chocolate biscuit was 20 times more than that capable of causing a reaction.
In a statement prepared with the help of the Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre in Brickendonbury, UK, IOM3 acknowledges that this is 'pioneering research' by Leatherhead Food International, in that it is the first attempt to quantify the level of latex allergens in food and food packaging, and to discover whether there is potential for the proteins to be transferred between them.
However, the Institute stresses that this study is only the beginning - it will form the basis for comprehensive research to be conducted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Leatherhead Food International, which will improve on the test methods developed.
Furthermore, IOM3 says that, using the current techniques, it has only been demonstrated that four particular latex proteins, known to cause allergic reactions, can be extracted from certain food-contact materials, and that researchers are careful not to suggest that there is a definite transfer of the proteins to the food.
'In some cases there is no absolute certainty that the protein found is actually latex - it could be from certain fruits that contain similar proteins. The researchers are also careful to point those out.'
A spokesperson for the FSA told the BBC that further investigation was required before firm conclusions can be reached about including latex on food labelling. 'The FSA advises consumers not to change what they eat or how they prepare it, as it is not clear that there actually is transfer of allergens from latex to food outside the laboratory.'