Authentication of food allergen quality by physicochemical and immunological methods


A. I. Sancho, Institute of Food Research, Norwich, UK. E-mail:


Purified allergens are required to detect cross-contamination with other allergenic foods and to understand allergen interaction with other components of the food matrix. Pure allergens are also used for the diagnosis and treatment of food allergies. For example, serological methods are being developed to improve the quality of diagnosis, and to reduce the need for food challenge tests. In addition, recombinant allergens are being evaluated as candidate vaccines for safe and efficacious specific immunotherapy. Pure allergens are indispensable as reference materials for the calibration and standardization of methods between different laboratories and operators for risk assessment in the food industry. Therefore, there is a need for well-defined purified food allergens. In this context, a panel of 46 food allergens from plant and animal sources has been purified, from either the food sources or as recombinant forms, within the EU-funded EuroPrevall project. These allergens have been characterized by a battery of diagnostic tests demonstrating that they constitute an authentic, well-defined library of comparable quality. The review summarizes the applications, potentials and limitations of key techniques used for the characterization and authentication of these allergen preparations, with a special emphasis on protein purity and identity, folding, post-translational modifications and immunochemical properties. One key area identified is the development of powerful analytical techniques, such as mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance, to improve the authentication of allergens for routine applications in allergy management.

Cite this as: A. I. Sancho, K. Hoffmann-Sommergruber, S. Alessandri, A. Conti, M. G. Giuffrida, P. Shewry, B. M. Jensen, P. Skov and S. Vieths, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2010 (40) 973–986.