This research project aims to develop a method for testing for allergens in new foods.
The ability to predict whether or not a novel protein can cause an allergic reaction in people has been hampered by the lack of suitable test methods.
<p>The aim of this study was to develop and evaluate four different methods that could be used to measure the tendency of proteins in food to cause allergy.
<p>Two of the methods developed depended on the ability of human and rat immune cells respectively to cause the release of the chemicals that trigger allergic reactions following contact with the food allergen (the substance in food that causes the allergic reaction).
<p>Although both methods could be used to measure the tendency of different protein allergen preparations to cause allergy, the method developed with rat immune cells was the more reliable of the two.
<p>Two other methods (an ELISA and an immunodiffusion assay) depended on the ability to measure the level of IgE (the antibody that triggers off allergic reactions in allergic people) in the serum. Of the two methods, the ELISA was found to be better.
<p>The contractors concluded that the rat immune assay and the ELISA could be reliably used to predict the tendency of novel foods to cause allergy.
Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the <a href="http://www.food.gov.uk/science/research/" target="_blank">Food Standards Agency Research webpage</a>.