By Akhil Nair
Food allergens are substances that cause allergic reactions upon interaction with the immune system. A class of antibodies, Immunoglobulin E (IgE), responds to these allergens causing allergic reactions.
Food allergy is recognized as a growing health burden globally. It is also indicated as the ‘second wave’ of the allergy epidemic after asthma. The prevalence of food allergies is high in developing and western countries. As per our analysis, this rising prevalence steers the global food allergen testing market growth at a CAGR of 7.33%. For instance, as per End Allergies Together (EAT), a non-profit organization, 220 million are impacted by food allergies worldwide. According to the same source, more than 50% of adults reported developing at least one food allergy after 18.
Food Allergen Testing: What are the Big 8 Allergens?
The US Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) in 2004, which mandates the declaration of the ingredient from a ‘major food allergen’ or its protein derivative on the label. In this regard, the FALCPA has recognized eight food allergens, conventionally referred to as the ‘Big 8.’ These include crustacean shellfish, soy, peanuts, fish, eggs, wheat, tree nuts, and milk/dairy, to be declared on product labels in the United States.
Here’s our take on the Big 8 food allergens:
As per the EU Directive, shellfish, including mollusks and crustaceans, are to be declared an allergenic ingredient in food products. Crustaceans include crabs, prawns, lobster, shrimp, etc. Their consumption can trigger reactions that impact the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, and skin brought on by the muscle protein tropomyosin. PCR and ELISA tests help detect these allergens in foods.
According to Inkwood Research, PCR is the fastest-growing food testing technology in the market, while ELISA is set to harbor the largest revenue share of 35.46% by 2030.
Soybean is an essential plant-based protein source for human consumption. Also, soy products like tofu, miso, soy milk, soy sauce, etc., are growing in popularity. However, soy allergies are on the rise. Accordingly, the allergen is subject to labeling in several countries since even minuscule concentrations of around 5 mg of soy protein can cause food allergies. The allergenic proteins of the soybean are Gly 31 to Gly m6. This allergen is detected using the ELISA method. Currently, ThermoFisher Scientific provides ELISA tests for the food allergen market.
Peanuts are one of the central food allergens and are thus a subject of extensive research. The accidental intake of peanuts reportedly causes fatal reactions and deaths in affected individuals. As a result, peanut allergies are a serious health concern.
As per a PubMed Central article, recent data show that almost 30 million Americans have peanut allergies. The major peanut allergens are identified as conarachin protein fractions and heat-stable glycoproteins, and can be detected by ELISA tests.
Fish is an essential amino acid, lipid-soluble vitamin, and polyunsaturated fatty acid source in the human diet. Exposure to fish is a crucial factor determining the prevalence of fish allergies. Therefore, fish allergies are increasingly prevalent in countries with fish-processing industries and high fish consumption.
At the same time, only limited proteins induce specific IgE-moderated immune reactions. Parvalbumin is a prominent fish allergen. Eurofins Scientific SE’s ‘SENSISpec ELISA Fish (Pavalbumin) 96,’ is a highly sensitive detection system for the parvalbumin allergen with regard to fish. Moreover, as per our findings, meat & seafood is a leading category in the processed food tested segment.
The egg is a prominent allergen in childhood feeding, posing threats to the quality of life. The hen’s egg allergy is the second-most common food allergy in young children and infants, as per a PubMed Central article. Most allergenic proteins are found in egg whites. These include ovomucoid, ovotransferrin, lysozyme, and ovalbumin, with ovomucoid as the dominant allergen.
Wheat is one of the primary crops consumed, grown, and processed. One of the two allergy types due to wheat includes the baker’s asthma, caused by the distinguished group inhibitors of α-amylase, and induced by the dust inhalation during grain processing and flour inhalation. The other is WDEIA (wheat-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis) caused by ω5-gliadins.
Tree nut allergies are the common food allergies in adults and children. The six usual tree nut allergies reported are associated with pistachio, cashew, pecan, hazelnut, almond, and walnut. Most tree nut allergens belong to nsLTPs, legumins, vicilin, and 2S albumins families. According to ScienceDirect, the tree nut allergy prevalence is 4.9% globally.
Milk allergies are increasingly common, and are not to be confused with lactose intolerance. The latter is an enzyme deficiency that degrades lactose (milk sugar). The important cow milk proteins with allergic potential include ß-lactoglobulin and casein.
Common Food Allergens: Geographical Variations
Different feeding patterns and geographical locations substantially influence the list of common food allergens. For instance, the US Food and Drug Administration is considering classifying sesame seed as a major allergen, whereas it is already classified as a major allergen in Europe, Australia, and Canada.
While the European Union classifies 14 foods (Big 14) as major allergens that require labeling. Accordingly, the stringent EU food regulations and guidelines for food labeling facilitate the use of food allergen testing products and services. This further contributes to the high revenue share of the Europe food allergen testing market, as per Inkwood Research.
Nevertheless, the growing prevalence of food allergies highlights the need for better education for the general public and health professionals. The Big 8 readily serves this purpose, thereby evaluated to help consumers make informed choices. Such developments offer immense growth opportunities for the global food allergen testing market.
Which is the leading country in the food allergen testing market?
India is the leading country in the food allergen testing market.
Which is the fastest-growing food tested category in the food allergen testing market?
Beverages are the fastest-growing food tested category in the food allergen testing market.