Effective measurement and lowering of the allergenic potential of foods – LowAllergen

© MEV

Project term: 1.1.2013 to 31.12.2015

Project management and funding:
Internal programme of  the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

The LowAllergen project is researching how to manufacture food ingredients with reduced allergenic potential.

Allergenic ingredients in foods present restrictions and indeed life-threatening risks for allergy sufferers. The increasing use of such ingredients, which is sometimes concealed, and hence exposure of consumers to these ingredients also brings with it the risk of healthy persons developing new allergies.

Lowering the allergenic potential of food ingredients would significantly enhance food safety. This requires suitable processes to reduce the allergenic characteristics of food ingredients and suitable test methods to effectively and reproducibly measure the allergenic potential of foods.

Existing test methods used by the food industry are suitable for determining the presence of allergenic components, but do not allow statements to be made about the specific allergenicity. Furthermore, the evaluation of processes for manufacturing hypoallergenic protein ingredients has hitherto been based on difficult to obtain and non-standardized human blood serum. This has meant that the development of hypoallergenic foods is complex and has to date been restricted to a select few product groups, such as baby foods. The main strategy for allergy sufferers is to avoid foods that potentially contain allergenic ingredients.

Using the example of soybeans (Glycine max), the LowAllergen project is developing new diagnostic methods and food processing methods which will for the first time allow the allergenic potential of food ingredients to be effectively measured and reduced.

In order to identify the molecular structures (epitopes) that are recognized by allergy-triggering antibodies, detailed characterization at different levels is being undertaken rather than global testing for just a few proteins that was the approach adopted up until now. Three complementary approaches are here providing information about the allergenic epitopes of soy protein and are allowing the development of test methods based, for the first time, on monoclonal antibodies that can be manufactured in a standardized way.

The precise identification and detection of allergenic epitopes at a molecular level is hence enabling the development of methods for recovering hypoallergenic food ingredients. These are specific chemical, physical, and enzymatic methods which reduce the allergenic potential yet essentially maintain the sensory and functional properties of the food ingredients.