What has research on food allergens to do with toxinology?
Food allergy research might not intuitively be perceived as falling into the scope of toxinology. However, food allergens have been characterised as chemical hazards in food safety in the same way as natural toxins, food additives, and contaminants. Food authorities often consider food allergens and natural toxins in parallel applying similar evaluation criteria and safety considerations (e.g. AOAC’s Committee on Natural Toxins and Food Allergens, EFSA’s Scientific Panels).
|Facts and background information on some of the food allergens we work with:
Food allergy is considered to be the fourth most important public health problem by the World Health Organization. It has implications for the general health status, economy and legislation of a country if a considerable percentage of its population suffers food-triggered allergic reactions ranging from rather mild symptoms to life-threatening events, which can only be avoided by dietary restrictions.
In consequence, not only the allergic consumer has to adapt his whole life style to his condition, but also dependent persons like family and friends as well as caterers, restaurants and the food industry are required to react appropriately. In this respect, national and supranational food labelling directives have been enacted requiring food manufacturers to declare ingredients with known allergenic potential. Additionally, possible allergenicity has to be considered when introducing novel foods (e.g. genetically engineered products).
|Definition of food allergy
Adverse reactions to food, i.e. food hypersensitivity, are divided into immune-mediated and non-immune mediated reactions. Immune-mediated reactions to food are mediated either by IgE antibodies or other immunological pathways. Food intolerances comprise non-immune-mediated responses that are dependent on enzyme deficiencies, pharmacological reactions, or, as is true in the majority of cases, arise by unknown mechanisms (EFSA, 2004).
Risk assessment in food allergy
Food allergens characteristics
Analytical methods for food allergens
Important food allergens
In the U.S. eight foods including crustaceans, egg, fish, milk, nuts, peanut, soybean, and wheat have been found to cause the majority of food allergenic reactions. Additionally, sesame is of importance in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the European Union (EU). Furthermore, Canada and the EU consider mustard as important allergen, and finally, the EU has extended the list with celery, lupin and molluscs to in total 13 foodstuffs and products thereof. In Japan and Korea, allergy to buckwheat is of considerable importance aside from the eight major allergens.