Study reveals latex allergens in packaging

Wednesday, 09 August, 2006

A recent study by Leatherhead Food International revealed that up to one third of food packaging may be contaminated with latex and the latex can be transferred to food in some cases. In one unnamed chocolate biscuit, the latex was 20 times the level that instigates a reaction. The wrapper contained 85ng/ml of latex.

"For a few people, natural rubber latex is a very potent allergen and for these individuals there is no safe level of exposure," Graham Lowe, representative of Latex Allergy Support Group said.

There is no agreement on a safe level of latex, but it has been reported that a billionth of a gram can be enough to cause a reaction. Currently manufacturers are not required to label food packaging as containing latex.

Scientists at Leatherhead Food International measured the presence of four major latex allergens in 21 types of food packaging for confectionary, fruit and vegetable produce, meat, pastry and dairy products.

The highest level in packaging was detected in ice-cream wrappers, with over 370 ng/mL found in one sample. The ice-cream itself contained around 14 ng/mL.

One company admitted spraying whole wrappers with latex adhesive, so that they could be sealed with minimum wastage.

The Leatherhead study is the first attempt to quantify the latex allergens present in food contact materials and also in foods.

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