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Food hypersensitivity

 What can the food industry do?
 Which food products?
 Role of the producer
 Manual detection of food allergens

What can the food industry do?

Fifteen percent of the Belgian and Dutch population is confronted with a form of food hypersensitivity. This phenomenon is increasing due to changes in the foodpattern, due to the consumption of exotic food products and due to new food processing techniques. Each food producer must abandone ingredients and additives that give hypersensitivity reactions to the consumer eating the food in question..But, if he hasn’t possibility to do so, he must warn for such food oversensitivity. This article has the aim to protect the weak consumer’s groups in the society.

Most consumers haven’t problems in eating food., but others react badly. Problems with the stomach and the intestines, vomiting, cramps, diarrhoea, headache, itching, swelling of the lips, troat and the palatel, asthma, rhinitis, rash (constitutiona eczema, itching, urticaria), etc. They suffer from food hypersensitivity a general term for food allergies and food intolerances. With food allergies the human immune system produces antibodies (IgE) against specific proteins present in the food (Proteins causing allergic reactions are called allergens). Well known are those present in cow milk, eggs and nuts.With non-allergic food hypersensitivity (intolerance), the body also give a reaction when consuming a foodstuff, but the immune system plays no role in that. The food products responsible for that problems are called ‘triggers’ in that case. This compounds can be naturally present in a product (in e.g. lactose), but it can also be introduced (in e.g. preservative sulphite). There is still much lack of clarityover which food compounds cause food intolerance. But, it is well known that a lot of allergens and triggers are stable molecules that resist the effect of food processing, cooking, and digestion. Those present in legumes and fruits are often instable against heat.

A lot of food products give food hypersensitivity reactions: citrus fruits, apples, peanut oil, alcoholic drinks, dairy products, mais and wheat products, etc.

Which food products?

In principal, man will react negatively on each food product; but some foodstuffs and food components are known to give more often a hypersensitivity reaction. With children, cow milk (dairy products), egg products, peanut, nuts, soy, fish, and kiwis give very often a reaction, while adults are often sensitive for fruit and vegetables.peanuts, nuts, herbs and spices. Foodstuffs known to cause intolerances are dairy products, milk sugar (lactose), sulphite, MSG-derivatives( E620-E625), foodstuffs that produce histamin in the body (sesam, kiwi, strawberries), histamin rich foodstuffs that contain a lot of amines (old cheese, salami, fish in can, mackrel, chocolat) and aromatic components (like vanilla, aromates in spices, anisum, drop, peperminth, etc.

Adults are more sensitive for spices and herbs

Role of the producer

There are little foodstuffs and ingredients a person worldwide is not allergic for. It is the duty of producers, retailers and catering companies to avoid allergens in food preparations or to warn for it. A producer must well organise the logistics of raw materials, his production and the cleaning of the installations/production rooms in order to avoid crosscontamination of the foodstuffs with allergens and ‘triggers’. Such phenomenon can occur during storage and treatment of raw materials, e.g. via residues present in process equipment, through dust contamination via the air, through rework of product in new ingredient mixtures without taking the allergen problems in mind, etc.
Producers must develop ingredient mixtures that are free of allergens. Non-characteristic ingredients known as allergens must be avoided and substituted. But in certain cases, the application of an allergen can’t be avoided as she is the characteristic ingredient of the formulation. When preparaing peanut butter, peanuts can’t be substituted.
To avoid ‘product recalls’ and damage claims, each producer must mobilise everybody within the company with the ‘allergen issue’. This asks for thorough training of everybody within the company : company border, purchasers, production- and quality responsibles, engineers, supervisors, operators, maintenance personnel. The prevention of allergens must be introduced in the HACCP-plan. Suppliers of raw materials must be inspected on their efforts to avoid crosscontamination during the production processes. As genetic manipulation of a plant can introduce an allergy in the fruit, attention must be taken for allergens in ingredients that are normally not critical.
According to regulation (EU) 1169/2011 producers are forced to mention allergenic ingredients and derivatives on the consumer label; see chapter Legislation and labelling.

Producers have to mention allergens on the label

Manual detection of food allergens

A person taking little attention to paper declarations can use fast detection kits commercialised by different companies . These kits are based on the principles of ELISA, PCR, PCR-ELISA, dipstick or enzymatical detection and can be applied during the production process. One can detect if food products are contaminated with allergens. The largest problems of these detections concern standardisation and sensitivity of the test method, the detection of the allergens in certain food media, the homogenity of samples, reference materials, etc. Tepnel Biosystems Ltd. (UK) has an AOAC validated test kit for peanut. The company has also test kits for qualitative detection of milk protein, soy protein, gluten, egg protein, paste, different animal proteins (pork, bovines, poultry, sheep, horse, rabbit, goat), several fish proteins (cod fish, herring, ray, salmon, trout), tanin, rye, barley, wheat, oat, mais, sesam, etc. R-Biopharm AG (D) launched test kits for detection of gluten, eggs, peanut, soy, hazzlenut, histamin, almond, sulphite, milk protein, MSG and lactose. Neogen Corp. (USA/Canada) has a test kit for egg protein, milk protein, peanut and sulphite. Elisa Technologies Inc. (USA) commercialised test kits for meat proteins (bovines, chicken, pork, horse, sheep, rabbit), gluten, peanut, soy protein, milk protein, egg-protein, paste, sesam. Genetic ID Inc. (USA) commercialises PCR-based tests for detection of peanut, soy, wheat.. They have also kits for detection of oyter, molluscs, shrimp, lobster, sea fish, etc.

A person having little believe in paper declarations, can use quick tests commercialised by different companies

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