Experts have warned that many chocolate bars and ice cream wrappers contain latex and could trigger potentially fatal allergic reactions in people who are already sensitive and that there is no law for it to be listed on labels.
It was reported that the study had been commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and was conducted by Leatherhead Food International, a leading science research laboratory. They had reported hat hey had found that one-third of packaging tested was contaminated with latex, which in some cases transferred to the food. They further reported that in a certain brand of chocolate biscuit, the amount was 20 times more than the necessary minimum that could produce a reaction, and also a very high level in an ice cream.
It was reported hat as of now there is no agreement on the amount that would probably constitutes a safe level, but many experts are of the belief that as little as a billionth of a gram (1 ng/ml) could trigger an allergic response. The research is to be published today in Chemistry & Industry, which is the magazine for the Society of Chemical Industry, and is supposedly the first known study that has quantified the presence of latex in food and packaging.
Professor Barry Kay, who is an allergy expert at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, said, "Latex can give contact hypersensitivity ... and so these individuals should avoid touching contaminated packages. There should be legislation on latex used in food packaging."
Graham Lowe, who is an expert adviser to the 'UK Latex Allergy Support Group' said, "For a few people, natural rubber latex is a very potent allergen and for [them] there is no safe level of exposure." It was explained that natural latex, which is derived from rubber trees, is used in meat netting, for fruit and vegetable stickers, rubber bands and confectionery wrappers.
According to Chemistry & Industry magazine, there had already been two recent reports of people reacting to latex in chocolate bars, one of which was a woman who had developed a rash around her mouth. It was also mentioned that the proteins in the latex that drift from the packaging to the food are usually destroyed by heat, but in case of 'cold sealing', which is the technique that is used to wrap products such as chocolate and ice cream, there could be a problem.
The authorities from the FSA have said it was still too early to draw a firm conclusion, but advised people not to alter their eating habits.