The project could open up possible methods manufacturers might be able to use in meeting the market demand for products with minimum amounts of allergents.
Leatherhead Food International said in its call for expression of interest that the project would examine the effects of process such as heat, proteolysis and refining on the allergenic potential of selected foods.
Project participants would use microscopic techniques to investigate ultrastructural changes in food products induced by processing and to correlate these changes with allergenic potential.
Leatherhead hopes to the outcome will result in understanding of how to use a combination of food processing techniques to significantly reduce allergens in certain foods.
"Successful completion of this project would lead to a better understanding of the effects of processing techniques on allergenicity and would identify strategies that could be employed to generate hypoallergenic foods," the company said in its brief.
Food allergy affect between one per cent to two per cent of the adult population. Labelling regulations and consumer concerns over allergens in food has let to increased costs for food processors, including investments for segregating plant area and labelling.
"Although the characteristics of the major food allergens have been well documented, comparatively little is known about the effects of processing techniques on food allergens," Leatherhead stated. "Indeed the available information is often difficult to interpret."
For example, the allergenicity of peanuts can be increased by roasting at high temperatures but reduced by boiling.
"By contrast, the allergenic potential of hazelnuts appears to be reduced by roasting," the analytical firm stated. "The ultrastructural changes accompanying these effects are not well documented."
Essentially there are three conventional techniques that can be applied to the processing of food allergens. They are thermal treatments, proteolytic processes and refining to eliminate allergen-enriched parts of the food.
"Within this collaborative programme, we propose to perform a comprehensive study of the effects of these techniques on allergenic potential, paving the way for the development of potentially hypoallergenic food products," Leatherhead stated.
The deadline to submit an expression of interest for participation in the collaborative project is 28 July 2006.