April 3, 2012

Milk Allergies: Are You at Risk?

(Ivanhoe Newswire)-- Did you know that the most common childhood food allergy is found in milk? A standard test that is used to detect food ingredients that cause milk allergy may actually not be working, putting millions of children under the age of 3 at risk for an allergic reaction.

Joseph L. Baumert, Ph.D., who was in charge of the studied explained that thermal and non-thermal processing of foods can change the proteins responsible for milk allergy in ways that make the proteins more difficult to detect using the standard test (ELISA).

However, even processing may still leave the milk proteins capable of causing symptoms of food allergy such as itchy skin, runny eyes, wheezing and other sometimes more-serious symptoms of milk allergy, despite the inability to detect the milk residue.

"The results of these studies could be utilized by commercial ELISA kit manufacturers to aid in improving ELISAs for detection of milk residue in processed food products. These improved tests can be adopted by the food industry, if necessary, to allow for reliable detection of milk residue regardless of the type of processing that is used," Joseph Baumert, Ph.D. was quoted as saying. "These improvements should not result in commercial tests that are more expensive or difficult for food processors to use."

ELISA is used by food processors to assure that that processed foods that do not contain milk and processing equipment in facilities that process milk products are free of milk allergens, the substances that can trigger milk allergy.

Baumert explained that manufacturers and food-safety agencies use ELISAs to ensure that food-processing equipment and finished products are free of allergens or labeled with risks. ELISAs are one of the most commonly used diagnostic tests in the world today. They detect everything from diagnosing pregnancy and detecting the AIDS virus in human blood to diagnosing a range of other diseases in plants and animals.

His team studied and documented how ELISAs perform on several measures of accuracy when milk proteins undergo changes in foods that are boiled, baked, fried or heated using other methods. Baumert hopes the results could help the food-processing industry and ELISA manufacturers make changes that better protect consumers with milk allergies.

SOURCE: 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society's (ACS), March  2012