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Food hypersensitivity

Article index
 What can the food industry do?
 Which food products?
 Role of the producer
 ‘Allergen derective’
 Unambiguous labelling
 Manual detection of food allergens

What can the food industry do?

Fifteen percent of the 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.

List with triggers and allergens giving food hypersensitivity

Food compound Specific
eggs and egg derivatives egg, dried egg products, albumin, lecithin, egg yolk, paste, mayonnaise, dressings, soups,
milk derivatives milk, milk powder, butter, margarin, crème, pudding, cheese, yoghurt, ice, whey, hydrolised whey protein, casein, caseinates, lactose
gluten tarwe, rogge, haver, gerst + afgeleiden
glutamates, flavours E620-E625, soja-saus, flavours
mais and mais derivatives mais starch, popcorn, mais in cans
wheat Wheat flour, wheat fiber, wheat starch, thickner and binder, rusk, bread crumbs, hydrolysed wheat protein
soy and soy derivatives soy, soy-protein, soy flour, tofu, soy beans, lecithin, hydrolised soy-protein, soy-emulgator, texturised soy flour, soyj concentrates, soy isolates
colouring agents E100, E101, E102, E104, E107, E110, E112, E120, E123, E124, E127, E128, E131, E132, E133, E141, E142, E150, E151, E153, E154, E155, E160a-f, E161a-g, E162, E163, E170, E171, E172, E173, E174, E175, E180, etc.
modified starch enzymatically, physically or chemically modified
sulphurdioxide sulphurdioxide, sulphite, E220-E228
benzoates E210-E219
BHT/BHA E320-E321
aids, carriers
seeds sesam, sunflower, cotton, musterd, … paste- and butterdervatives
nuts almond, brasilian nut, cashewnut, coconut, ginkonut, hazelnut, jojobanut, lytchee, palmnut, pili, walnut, peanut, pistachenut, acorn, beechnut, breadfruit, chestnut, chillinut, pecannut, oysternut, sheanut, tigernut, Quandong nut, paranut, etc.
nut derivatives ecithin, nut butter, nut meal, nut milk, nut flour, vegetal nut oil, nut extracts, nut flavours, …
marine products fish, crustaceans, molluscs
bovine derivatives bovine bouillon, bovine gelatin, bovine meat, bovine fat, bovine blood, etc.
pork derivatives stocks, pork gelatin, pork meat, pork blood, pork fat, etc.
sheep derivates sheep fat, sheep gelatine, sheep meat, sheep blood, etc.
poultry derivatives poultry fat, poultry gelatines, poultry meat, chicken bouillon, etc.
yeast yeast extracts, baking yeast, brewery yeast, bakkery products, beer, ketchup
fruits apple, kiwi, banana, avocado, citrus fruits, strawberry, etc.
vegetables beans, aubergine, tomates, etc.
alcoholic drinks beer, whine, jenever
chocolat chocolat-derivatives
lupine lupine-protein, lupine-flour
herbs, spices celery, nutmeg, cardamon, 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.

‘Allergen derective’

The 25th of november 2003 the Europeane Commission has published Directive 2003/89/EG concerning the mentioning of food ingredients (Allergen Directive). The amendment forces food producers to mention allergenic ingredients and derivatives on the consumer label. The directive amends Directive 2000/13/EG (consumer label directive). Ingredients and technological aids on the label must be mentioned according to addendum III bis of the directive. The list contains grains with gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, soy beans, milk products (in e.g. lactose), nuts, sesam seed, sulphite in concentrations of minimum 10 mg/kg (also derivatives). If it is scientifically proved that certain raw materials become non-allergic, they can be expelled from the list. This is only possible if before the 4th of august the European Commission received paperwork demonstrating that this ingredients don’t cause any harm to human health. For peanuts and soy oil it is possible that they become free of labeling. The European Commission gives a provisional list of ingredients or compounds that are free of labeling (after consultation of the EFSA, and not later than 25/11/2004) until definitive research results (at least at 25/11/2007) are available. The member states of the European Union must implement the directive before 25/11/2004.

Unambiguous labelling

The labeling must be unambiguous. The ingredient list must have sufficient large letter type and all words used must be clear and unambiguous. In e.g. persons that are allergic for cow milk have more benefit from a heading announcing ‘contains milk protein’ than a mentioning of the words ‘sodium or calcium caseinate’. Producers must have the goodwill to warn deliberately the consumer for a certain ‘allergen’ or ‘trigger’. An enumeration of ingredients is not sufficient: in retail conditions, a warning must be clear and with large letters. For the moment, producers fear a lot of negative publicity of such announcements. But the right formulation can reduce commercial damage. Announcement like ‘contains ….. , to which certain people can be allergic’, or ‘can contain traces of ………. , to which certain people can be allergic’or ‘produced in a factory where also ……. (in e.g. peanut) is treated’ are splendid.

Producers must warn deliberately of a certain type of ‘allergen’ or’ trigger’

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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