Latex can contaminate food

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: November 9th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s been about twenty years since latex allergy became a significant health concern.

Produced from rubber tree sap, latex is used in everything from surgical gloves and adhesive tape to balloons and toys.

People can become allergic to some proteins contained in the sap. So far, thirteen of these allergens have been identified.

Average adults have up to a six percent chance of developing latex allergy. The risk is higher for people with certain occupations or health conditions.

For allergic individuals, exposure can cause contact dermatitis, respiratory distress and even death.

Public awareness of the problem has grown. But many people would be surprised to know there’s a risk of latex exposure associated with food packaging.

A study published in the September issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture explores these culinary connections.

Foods likely to come into contact with latex include chocolate, produce, fruit juice, ice cream, meat, cheese and pastries.

So researchers analyzed several items from that list to look for latex contamination.

Most items contained no more than five nanograms of latex per milliliter of sample. But chocolate cookies contained an average of seventeen nanograms.

Researchers aren’t sure how much latex is required to trigger an allergic reaction. But a previous study indicated one nanogram per milliliter was enough for sensitive individuals.

So if you suffer from latex allergy, this is another reason to watch your diet.

And keep an eye on the wrappers, bags and boxes involved, too.