Project number: 2003-401
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $6,895.00
Principal Investigator: Stephen Thrower
Organisation: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries EcoScience Precinct
Project start/end date: 29 Apr 2003 - 30 Jun 2004


The project is of considerable importance to both industry and the community:
- since December 2002 Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) require all food produced to be labelled with potential allergens
- the increased consumption of seafood is resulting in concomitant increase in reports of allergies to seafood
- a duty of care is owed by employers to people working in the catching, processing and retail of seafood. Better information will allow preventive measure to be taken to control exposure to airborne allergens and costly litigation to be avoided.

The results of this project will help to develop a more comprehensive research program investigating:

- the development of detection kits for the detection of airborne allergens
- the characterisation of allergens and comparison with known seafood allergens
- the exposure response relationship of allergen exposure and health outcomes.


1. To determine the various occupational settings in which exposure to seafood allergens occurs and to identify specific work processes associated with high risk exposure.
2. to determine the prevalence of work related allergic health problems (rhino-conjunctivitis, urticaira/eczema, asthma)
3. To determine the level of occupational health service provision and surveillance of workers in these various workplaces.
4. To characterise the demographic profile of seafood processing workplaces in Australia in the context of the risk from allergen exposure.

Final report

Author: Stephen Thrower
Final Report • 2004-07-15 • 602.54 KB


Survey forms sent to over 800 companies in the aquaculture and processing sectors of the Australian seafood industry on the provision of occupational health services and the prevalence of allergic health problems drew 140 responses.

The key findings of this survey were:

  • About half of the workplaces provided an on-site occupational health service and conducted some form of medical surveillance program.
  • There was a positive trend between the size of an operation and provision of an occupational health program.
  • Only 9% of workplaces operated an industrial hygiene program.
  • The most common form of allergy experienced was urticaria (skin rashes) followed by asthma, rhinitis and rhino conjunctivitis.  These results are in agreement with more extensive studies done overseas.
  • It is suggested that an awareness program be instituted to alert management and workers to the possibility of allergies, and appropriate avoidance procedures be instituted.

Keywords: Allergens, antibodies, urticaria, rhinitis, rash, conjunctivitis, allergy, immune, survey, occupational, seafood. 

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