Non-GMO method for removing allergens from seafood?

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food Amino acid

A simple heat and irradiation treatment may reduce the levels of an
allergenic protein in prawns that may make the seafood accessible
to seafood allergy sufferers, Chinese researchers report.

However, the research has been met with scepticism by some in the food industry.

Writing in Chemistry & Industry , the magazine of the Society of Chemical Industry, Lisa Richards quotes an unnamed spokesperson from a large food company: "It seems highly unlikely there would be a viable market for such an artificially manipulated product."

Moreover, Flemming Jensen from Denmark's department of seafood research told Richards: "If I was sensitive I wouldn't risk eating these [prawns] until in vivo experiments have been performed."

Seafood and fish allergies are believed to touch more than 6.5 million people in the US alone.

A recent study found that one in 50 people had an allergy to shrimps, crabs, lobster, squid, scallop, clams, and mussels.

The new research, published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture , reports that a simple and non-GMO method of deactivating a protein in seafood that causes allergies.

By exposing the prawns to a simple heat and irradiation treatment, the researchers, led by Li Zhenxing from the Ocean University of China, reduced the level of the allergen, Pen a 1 (tropomyosin), 20-fold, as determined by testing with blood taken from 15 people (18 years of age) with shrimp allergies, and three subjects with no shrimp allergies.

The researchers report that irradiation alone was associated with an increase in allergenicity, suggested to be due to irradiation damaging the proteins and producing reactive amino acid residues.

Subsequent exposure to a heat treatment denatures these amino acids, removing allergenicity towards the shrimp.

"Radiation and heat seems to be a promising method for reducing the immunoreactivity," wrote the researchers.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a scientific opinion last year indicating that tropomyosin is not reliably reduced by food processing (heating alone).

"Although further studies are needed to assess the clinical relevance of our findings, radiation plus heat seems to be a promising method for decreasing the immunoreactivity of shrimp," concluded the researchers.

Source: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture Published on-line, doi:10.1002/jsfa.2746 "Impact of irradiation and thermal processing on the immunoreactivity of shrimp (Panaeus vannamei) proteins" Authors: L. Zhenxing, L. Hong, C. Limin, K. Jamil Chemistry & Industry February 26 2007, Page 6 "Researchers fish for solution to allergies" Author: Lisa Richards

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