Website Searches Food Product Labels for 25 Different Allergens

TOKYO, Nov. 17 (Kyodo) — Willmore Co., a Tokyo-based health information research firm, launched in late September a free online site where members can search for food that does not contain ingredients to which they are allergic.

On the site called "Kumitasu," members specify their food allergens such as eggs, wheat or soba and can then see a list of food that do not contain them. The site covers about 40,000 food items.

The members can purchase the food through links to such major online shopping malls as Rakuten Ichiba and Amazon.

Currently, they can search for 25 allergens including seven items — shrimp, crab, wheat, soba, eggs, milk and peanuts — which the Consumer Affairs Agency obliges food manufacturers to specify on product labels.

Willmore President Mayu Ishikawa, a former employee of an information technology company, established the firm in 2009 with the hope of building a system allowing consumers to find safe food ingredients in an effective way.

"It had been difficult to find (nonallergenic) food ingredients and too few options were available," said Ishikawa, who herself is allergic to milk.

In 2012, Willmore developed a smartphone application dubbed "Allergy Checker" that enables users to read product bar codes with their smartphone cameras and see what allergens they contain.

Willmore then created a database based on the information about food allergens contained in each product, which then led the company to launch Kumitasu.

For those labels that failed to make clear what ingredients are used, the company directly phoned manufacturers to confirm if any food allergens are contained in them.

"We also sought support from housewives and others who shared a common awareness of the issue," Ishikawa said.

Willmore said it plans to increase the number of searchable food allergens and products, and to carry on the website actual experiences of consumers and opinions from doctors as well.

"We hope to make this site a further useful source of information for those suffering from allergies," Ishikawa said.

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