A manufacturer of confectionary ginger is developing a new processing system that eliminates the need to use sulphites as a preservative, making its ginger products allergy-free.
Buderim Ginger, which is based in Australia, has been awarded AUS $245,100 (€123,000) in government funding to investigate a processing system that uses chlorine dioxide rather than sulphites, which are a recognised allergen, particularly for people with respiratory disorders.
The development would help the company tap into the growing “free-from” market which has largely been fuelled by the rising number of people with food allergies, according to analysts.
Steve Dennis, process and engineering manager at Buderim, said the funding, awarded under Queensland’s State Government’s Business and Industry Transformation Incentives scheme, would cover research into the performance of chlorine dioxide, the development of an automation system and the undertaking of trials.
He added: “This funding will help us transform our operations and enhance the products we deliver to our customers which is the most important aspect of our business.
“By having an allergen-free product, with no sulphites, we will be able to deliver even healthier ginger products into new markets in Australia and overseas.”
Buderim, which is described as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of confectionary ginger, has the capacity to process over 5000 ton of ginger per year. It also exports to more than 17 countries including the USA, New Zealand, Europe and Asia.
Manufacturers face strict regulations regarding the labeling of allergens used as an ingredient. For example, under current EU allergen labelling rules, companies are required to lable all pre-packed foods if they contain any of 12 listed allergenic foods, which includes sulphites.
Queensland Industry Minister, Desley Boyle, who announced the funding, said that the current trend in food processing was to remove sulphites and that Buderim was investigating the new processing system “to maintain its competitive edge, and to safeguard its export market”.
The "free-from" food market has been enjoying sales growth, with of over 300 per cent reported in the UK alone since 2000, as a result of growing numbers of people with reported food allergies, according to market analyst Mintel.
However, half of the reported food allergies amongst adults are not food allergies at all, according to a paper published in the journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.
It said that between 10 and 20 per cent of people see themselves as suffering from a food allergy, but the real figure may be half this.
The Wurzburg University study reported that, of the 419 people with suspected food allergies tested, less than 50 per cent actually had a IgE-mediated food allergy.
According to Allergy UK, 45 per cent of the UK population face food sensitivities at some point in their lives, and two per cent suffer from a food allergy.