- Sources of information
Data sourced from food allergen alerts publicly available from the European Commission Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and the website of selected European (Food Standards Agency [UK], Food Safety Authority of Ireland [FSAI]) and non-European food safety authorities (US Food & Drug Administration [USFDA], US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service [USDA FSIS], Canadian Food Inspection Agency [CFIA], Australia and New Zealand Food Standards [FSANZ], Hong Kong Centre of Food Safety) between January 2011 to December 2014.
- Design of database and selection of fields
At the European level, alert notifications are issued when a food that might present a serious risk is available on the market and rapid action is required.
Food products are coded in the database using the RASFF product categorisation and the Reportable Food Registry (RFR) categories. These systems were applied to compare different outputs and highlight potential limitations, which are implicit in any categorisation system. For alerts involving more than one product, each food product was added as a single record. Conversely, when multiple allergens were found in the same food product, each allergen was added as a discrete product/ allergen record.
Allergen categories specified in Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 (i.e. cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, soybeans, milk, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame, sulphur dioxide and sulphites, lupin and molluscs) were used to code the allergen(s). Where more detailed information, as to a specific allergen within a category, was provided, this information was added in a separate field.
Where information was available, both the type of notification and the action taken by the food company have been coded based on RASFF. RASFF codes were also used to categorise the action taken by the company. Where alerts were in RASFF and national information sources, entries are marked as duplicates.
In some cases, the alert provided the origin of raw materials or the place of product packaging, which has been included as 'country of origin'. When available, the numbers of lots involved have also been included or otherwise designed 'not quantifiable'. Where available, the number of adverse reactions was reported.
The cause(s) of each food alert has been classified according to a coding vocabulary developed using terms from RASFF alerts and FSA recalls and, secondly, new terms introduced during data entry to reconcile terms used by another food safety authority.