Detection of relevant amounts of cow's milk protein in non-pre-packed bakery products sold as cow's milk-free

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Abstract

Background:

Currently, there is no mandatory labelling of allergens for non-pre-packed foods in the EU. Therefore, consumers with food allergy rely on voluntary information provided by the staff. The aim of this study was to characterize allergic reactions to non-pre-packed foods and to investigate whether staff in bakery shops were able to give advice regarding a safe product choice.

Methods:

Questionnaires were sent to 200 parents of children with a food allergy. Staff of 50 bakery shops were interviewed regarding selling non-pre-packed foods to food-allergic customers. Bakery products being recommended as ‘cow's milk-free’ were bought, and cow's milk protein levels were measured using ELISA.

Results:

A total of 104 of 200 questionnaires were returned. 25% of the children experienced an allergic reaction due to a non-pre-packed food from bakery shops and 20% from ice cream parlours. Sixty percent of the bakery staff reported serving food-allergic customers at least once a month, 24% once a week. Eighty four percent of the staff felt able to advise food-allergic consumers regarding a safe product choice. Seventy three ‘cow's milk-free’ products were sold in 44 bakery shops. Cow's milk could be detected in 43% of the bakery products, 21% contained >3 mg cow's milk protein per serving.

Conclusion:

Staff in bakery shops felt confident about advising customers with food allergy. However, cow's milk was detectable in almost half of bakery products being sold as ‘cow's milk-free’. Every fifth product contained quantities of cow's milk exceeding an amount where approximately 10% of cow's milk-allergic children will show clinical relevant symptoms.

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