Can we expect allergic responses after eating newly introduced proteins, e.g. insect protein? What are the consequences for allergenicity when new proteins cross link to existing protein ingredients? These are just a few of the many questions to address when developing (new) food products. TNO develops and implements, together with partners, a strategy to assess and predict allergy risks early in the development phase of novel food products.
As the food industry moves towards hypoallergenic and/or alternative protein sources (e.g. insects and algae), allergy risk assessment is increasingly important for future novel food development. For all proteins, their safety as food source and approval for market introduction need to be clear before the protein can contribute to the human diet. Allergenicity can be a major hurdle in the regulatory approval process. Current guidelines to assess the allergenic potential of foods are restricted to qualitative measures and often result in oversimplification of the hazard assessment. Developing an approach for the quantitative expression and comparison of allergenicity is one of the major challenges to accurately assess the risk of new proteins. TNO is developing a strategy to assess and quantitatively predict the relative allergenicity of proteins. This allows selection of those proteins or process steps with the lowest allergenic risk early in product development.
Together with research partners, a wide range of established and new hazard parameters are examined for their allergy predictive power. Moreover the intrinsic properties of proteins (e.g. physico-chemical parameters, matrix effect, processing and protein resistance) and the biological properties (e.g. effect on isolated immune cells, intestinal tissue, sensitisation and elicitation in experimental animal models and/or healthy controls and patients) are investigated. In a translational approach, TNO aims to develop a probabilistic statistical model to predict the relative allergenicity of (novel) proteins. The model will combine those hazard parameters that offer the best information on the allergenic potential of proteins and food products. This information will help the food industry and government agencies in their decision making processes with respect to product development and risk management.
As an independent research organization, TNO is working together with (inter-)national parties from academia, government and industry to improve both knowledge and product development, while developing clear recommendations on policies and processes for their use. The TNO Shared Research Program (SRP) Food Allergy is a program based on the "open innovation model" with the aim to build up knowledge in the research area and achieve a broad application of this knowledge by its participants (for more details see the SRP flyer). We welcome potential collaborators to join TNO in research efforts to gain knowledge on the diverse factors that may be correlated with allergenicity.SRP Food Allergy.