Interview with Antonio De Gennaro, founder of FoodAllergeni
Tell us about your background and the activities of FoodAllergeni
I am an entrepreneur, graduated in Communication at the University La Sapienza of Rome. I worked for several years with a known communications company as a trainer for retail. In the last three years I worked as director of a training school. I pay great attention to allergies also because I’m allergic to lactose.
In May of 2015 I met with the lawyer Carmine Coviello, who gave me guidance on EU 1169/11 European legislation came into force in Italy on 13/12/14 and statues the obligation to establish the allergens-agenda for all businesses in the food chain. This meeting gave rise to the idea of forming the food supply chain personnel and give them all the necessary instruments to write the allergens menu, and above all to protect those allergic consumers who may unknowingly fall into an anaphylactic shock.
In recent years we are witnessing an explosion of allergies and food intolerances. What’s the reason?
Food allergies are almost exclusively present in Western countries where the prevalence of food allergies have increased by 18% from 1997 to 2007. Data from several groups show that in 2007, 3.9% of American children under 18 years presented a food allergy, among the possible causes of this increase is certainly the increasing use of antibiotics, but also late weaning of babies by mothers.
Three adjectives for the food safety system in our country (and Europe)
Mandatory, essential, underestimated.
You might have heard of edible insects for human consumption. Have you eplored the issue from your professional point of view?
Insects are part of the daily diet in many countries such as Asia and Africa, contain proteins, minerals, vitamins and are low in fat. I support their presence in daily diets, but only if they are properly reared, as the EU Food Safety Agency (EFSA) recommends.
Do you see particular risks in the introduction of this and other novel foods?
I do not see any particular risk in the introduction of insects in our diets, but I would be disappointed if they were going to overturn the Mediterranean diet.
Did you ever tried insects?
Yes, I ate grasshoppers in Mexico and I found them pleasant.
Do you think edible insects products will be successful in a country like Italy?
We Italians are very connected to our culinary traditions, so I don’t think edible insects will easily become part of our food tradition.