The European Commission asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to provide a scientific opinion on lysozyme from hens’ eggs used in the manufacture of wine as an anti-microbial stabilizer or additive following on from a call from the Oenological Products and Practices International Association (OENOPPIA) that lysozyme get permanent exemption from labelling.
Oenological products include yeasts, stabilizers, clarifying and cleaning agents suitable for wine making.
Lysozyme is allowed for use in food manufacturing (cheese and wine) in EU countries, and must follow purity specifications set forth in European legislation. It is extracted from egg white, where it constitutes approximately 0.3 % of the mass and 3.5 % of the proteins.
In winemaking, the egg derivative is used for the control of lactic acid bacteria, and it is considered essential to obtain consistent and high quality. It can be used at different stages of wine production and at different doses.
Egg allergy has an estimated prevalence of between 1.6 per cent and 3.2 per cent making it the second most common cause of food hypersensitivity in children. In some industrialised countries, it is thought to be the most prevalent food allergy among children.
The cause of the problem, like most other food allergies, is protein, present mainly in the egg white. The main culprits include lysozyme and also ovalbumin, ovomucoid, and ovotransferrin.
But OENOPPIA said hat lysozyme is the weakest allergen among the four major egg white proteins and indicated a frequency of sensitisation to lysozyme among egg allergic subjects of 15%, as compared to 53% for ovotransferrin and 32% for ovomucoid and ovalbumin.
However, EFSA notes that allergic sensitisation to lysozyme is common among egg allergic individuals. And it stressed that reports (including one double-blind placebo-controlled food challenge, DBPCFC) of allergic reactions to lysozyme and lysozyme-containing foods among egg-allergic individuals are available in the literature.
The Parma-based agency also added that results “from a clinical study on lysozyme-containing cheese do not allow conclusions about the safety of lysozyme consumption in clinically egg allergic individuals.”
EFSA thus concluded that wines treated with lysozyme may trigger adverse allergic reactions in susceptible individuals under the conditions of use proposed by OENOPPIA.
The EFSA opinion can be found here.