Background: Foods not commonly consumed in the European Union must be proven safe before being brought to market, including an assessment of allergenicity. We present a three-stepwise strategy for allergenicity assessment of natural novel foods using three novel vegetables, namely, water spinach, hyacinth bean, Ethiopian eggplant.
Methods: First, vegetable extracts were analyzed for the presence of pan-allergens [Bet v 1 homologous proteins, profilins, nonspecific lipid transfer proteins (LTP)] by immunoblot analysis with specific animal antibodies. Secondly, the IgE-binding of the food extracts was investigated by EAST (Enzyme-allergosorbent test) and immunoblot analysis using sera with IgE-reactivity to known pan-allergens or to phylogenetically related foods from subjects (i) allergic to birch, grass and mugwort pollen, (ii) with food allergy to soy, peanut, tomato, multiple pollen-related foods and (iii) sensitized to LTP. Thirdly, the clinical relevance of IgE-binding was assessed in vivo by skin prick testing (SPT) and open oral food challenges (OFC).
Results: Profilin and LTP were detected by animal antibodies in all vegetables, a Bet v 1 homologue selectively in hyacinth bean. IgE-binding to LTP, profilin and a Bet v 1 homologue was proven by immunoblot analysis and EAST. Positive SPT and OFC results were observed for all vegetables in pollen-allergic patients.
Conclusions: Our stepwise procedure confirmed the presence and IgE-binding capacity of novel vegetable proteins homologous to known allergens in endemic vegetable foods. In vivo testing proved the potential of the novel vegetables to elicit clinical allergy. Hence, our described algorithm seems to be applicable for allergenicity testing of natural novel foods.