Novel food allergies: what do we know so far?
Introducing alternative and sustainable sources of proteins in the human diet is crucial to guarantee nutrition security while reducing the impact on the environment. Allergenicity assessment of novel ingredients aims to provide safe food to consumers.
The world population is increasing by 1% every year. From 7.8 billion people in 2021, we will reach 9.7 billion in 2050. Eating habits are geographically and economically driven: Europe, America, and Oceania primarily consume animal-derived products (meat, egg, milk, and fish) while Asia and Africa are more oriented towards plant-derived products (cereals and legumes). Similarly, high- and middle-income consumers primarily eat animal-based products while low-income consumers do not (van Vliet et al. 2015). Developing a secure food supply for the world population is a challenge that may increasingly affect the environment negatively. The food production chain from farming operations to transport contributes significantly to carbon emissions, land use, and water loss and waste. The reduction of net green gas emissions is a primary goal of the European Union (EU) Green Deal plan to limit global warming. A transition to a plant-based diet by 2050 could remove a substantial fraction of the carbon dioxide (CO2) and increase the chances of limiting warming to 1.5?°C (Hayek et al. 2021).
Today, meat, egg and milk are the primary dietary sources of valuable proteins because of their quality in terms of essential amino acid content and digestibility. However, meat production generates 0.06 to 0.12 kg of CO2 per gram of protein, while the production of legumes generates less than 0.02 kg of CO2 per gram of protein (Gardner et al. 2019).
The food science community is focusing on evaluating alternative and sustainable food ingredients that can contribute to food security and reduce the environmental impact of food production. The introduction in the human diet of new protein sources and the increased consumption of other foods may be responsible for clinically significant cross-reactions in allergic subjects and/or de novo sensitisation (Remington et al. 2018).
Dietary habits and prevalence of food allergy
Food allergy is an adverse reaction of the immune system of sensitive subjects to proteins that are harmless for the rest of the population. People suffering from food allergy must strictly avoid foods to which they are allergic because clinical treatments or cures do not currently exist. Clinical cases of food-induced allergic reactions have been described for over 200 different foods; however, in Europe, only 14 foods (cow milk, chicken eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, crustaceans, lupins, soya, fish, wheat, celery, mustard, sesame seeds, molluscs, and sulphur dioxide) are classified as priority allergens, based on population food allergy incidence (Messina and Venter 2020). These allergens must be highlighted on food labels (Regulation [EU] No 1169/2011). Food allergy affects about 10% of the population (Lopes and Sicherer 2020) and it has been increasing over the years, primarily in industrialised countries (Loh and Tang 2018). Food allergy prevalence, which quantifies the proportion of the population experiencing food allergic reactions, varies by type of allergenic food and the age and geographical location of the population (Lopes and Sicherer 2020, Loh and Tang
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