An EFSA-sponsored literature review (conducted by the Technical University of Denmark, National Food Institute) examined the respiratory sensitizing potential of microorganisms and their enzymes that are used as food/feed additives. Cases of occupational allergy to both fungi and bacteria have been documented, but allergic reactions (including asthma) to microorganisms intentionally introduced in the work environment seem to involve only a limited number of fungi (no cases resulting from the intentional use of bacteria have evidently been reported). Enzymes derived from fungi and bacteria have caused concern, with the problems confounded in cases involving impure industrial grade enzymes that contain other enzymes from the microbial source (this may result in cross-reactions and unexpected sensitization). Out of 71 enzymes listed as food or feed additives, the investigators found 18 were linked to allergies and all but one of these was associated with respiratory sensitization. The report also includes a short review of existing methodology for predicting a chemical’s allergenicity: apparently none of the currently available models (in silico, in vitro and in vivo) are able to accurately predict which molecules will induce allergy in humans.

[Martel C. et al. Scientific/technical report submitted to EFSA. Bibliographic review on the potential of microorganisms, microbial products and enzymes to induce respiratory sensitization. Accepted by the European Food Safety Authority for publication on 22 October 2010. The report can be obtained at on the internet.] {186652}

The above item was taken from the December 2010 issue of Toxicology and Regulatory News which is sent automatically to members of bibra (click here for more details).

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