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Development of an integrated strategy for controlling the allergen issue in the Belgian food and catering industry (ALLERRISK) (PHASE II)

Research project SD/AF/03B (Research action SD)

Persons :

  • Dr.  DE LOOSE Marc - Instituut voor landbouw en Visserij Onderzoek (ILVO)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2008-31/1/2011
  • Dr.  STEVENS Wim - Universiteit Antwerpen (UA)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2008-31/1/2011
  • Dr.  DE MEULENARE Bruno - Universiteit Gent (UGent)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2008-31/1/2011
  • Prof. dr.  DE PAUW Edwin - Université de Liège (ULG)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2008-31/1/2011

Description :


Food allergies represent an important health problem and the prevalence of allergic reactions shows an increasing trend over the last years. Currently, the only effective treatment for food allergy is avoidance of the allergen-containing food. The screening of food products to detect possible allergens is an essential part of a solid preventive policy at the level of the public authorities and the food industry. The food industry is actually confronted with a problem with regard to the validation of their production processes in order to assure absence of cross contamination in the production lines and also with a reliable quality control of the incoming materials. Due to the specific characteristics and the high level of variability among allergens, the development of functional methods to detect the most important allergens will allow public authorities to compose a new preventive policy in order to improve food safety.

Project description


The main objective of this project is to develop for two selected allergens, namely hazelnut and soy, an integrated control strategy. In such a strategy, quantitative analysis of the target allergen plays a central role. This strategy will be a tool for the government, the Belgian food and catering industry and other interested parties to ensure safe food to the consumers and can be applied to other allergens in the future.


The robustness of the commercially available analytical methods to detect soy and hazelnut proteins in foodstuffs, containing the original allergen as such or in a chemical composition influenced by different processing steps will be validated and evaluated. The impact of some food processing simulating reactions on the chemical composition of the allergen, on its detection by commercially available methods and on its allergenicity will be monitored using the following 5 analytical approaches, namely immunochemical analysis; PCR analysis; mass spectrometric analysis; chemical analysis and in vitro allergenicity assessment.

In a second stage new integrated analytical methods will be developed and optimized. It is expected that different food processing steps will decrease the robustness of the existing immunological and DNA-based methods with conservation of the allergenic potential of the original allergenic proteins. These proteins will be subjected to controlled chemical reactions and used for the development of antibodies. These antibodies will be used to develop new immunoassays, specifically designed for detection of allergens after food processing. In parallel the effect of the applied treatment on the stability and amplifiability of the DNA will be studied.

The proposed research will also include a study of the applicability of a quantitative technique of analysis based on liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry already used in proteomics. After development for the main food allergens, such a method could represent the basement of a liable system of control of this important problem of public health. This method will be complementary to biochemical methods used as routine screening methods.

To check how far the detection limits obtained for the screening and confirmation methods can give 100 % guarantee to the allergic consumer, extracts of blank food matrix spiked with the allergens at the detection limit will be subjected to in-vitro tests. From the results obtained by these tests advice can be given concerning the strategy that is preferably used to protect the health of allergic persons in the best way.

The methods developed will be used in Belgian food factories belonging to the dairy sector, chocolate sector, meat sector and cookies sector to evaluate the cleaning processes applied and to assess the critical control points in the quality management system. Besides the food industry, also the different kitchens including the catering are confronted with the problem of controlling cross contamination to avoid allergenic reactions of the consumers. Therefore, the same general approach as for the food industry will be applied in a hotel school where mini installations are available and where the personnel working in the catering industry is educated.

Interaction between the different partners

ILVO is responsible for the validation of the commercially available ELISA and PCR tests, for the optimalisation of the DNA extraction and for the development of new real-time PCRs. ILVO will also coordinate the cooperation with the Belgian food and catering industry.

UGent is responsible for the classic chemical study of different food processing methods and study of the changes in proteins by mass spectrometry. UGent will also develop new indirect competitive ELISA’s for the detection of hazelnut and soy allergens.

The University of Liege is responsible for the development of quantitative mass spectrometric methods for the detection of allergens in order to evaluate the screening methods.

The University of Antwerp is responsible for the clinical validation of the techniques developed by the other partners.

Expected results and/or products

- publication in scientific journals with peer review
- presentation of the results at national and international conferences
- report on the performance characteristics of commercially available screening tests on unprocessed and processed food
- determination of critical control points in the food producing plants
- recommendations for the auto control guides of the sectors maintaining traditional production methods
- recommendations for the government concerning the analytical strategy to be applied for the detection of allergens



The mission of ILVO consists of the execution and co-ordination of policy-supporting scientific research and its associated services, with a view to sustainable agriculture and fisheries in relation to economical, ecological and social perspectives. Emphasis is laid on food safety items in the research group dealing with this project.

The Unit Food Chemistry and Human Nutrition focuses her research on the chemical behavior of foods and food ingredients and the impact of this behavior on human health. The research of the Laboratory of Protein Biochemistry and Protein Engineering is dedicated to the mass spectrometric analysis of proteins and peptides and to proteomics.

In the Centre of Analysis of Residues in Traces, the fundamental laboratory research is dedicated to molecular recognition. The behavior of biological molecules is studied both theoretically and experimentally and the most important tool in the laboratory is the mass spectrometer.

The Department of Immunology – Allergology and Rheumatology focuses on the development of new diagnostic tools which can be helpful in the assessment of allergenicity of native and recombinant allergens.

Contact Information


Marc De Loose & Els Daeseleire
Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO)
Technology and Food Unit (T&V)
Brusselsesteenweg 370
9090 Melle
Tel: +32 (0)9 272 28 42 (Marc De Loose)
Tel: +32 (0)9 272 30 32 (Els Daeseleire)
Tel: +32 (0)9 272 30 11 (Wim Reybroeck)
Fax:+32 (0)9 272 30 01


Bruno De Meulenaer
Universiteit Gent (UGent)
Research Group Food Chemistry and Human Nutrition
Coupure Links 653
B-9000 Gent
Tel: +32 (0)9 264 61 66
Fax: +32 (0)9 264 62 15

Bart Devreese
Universiteit Gent (UGent)
Laboratory for Protein Biochemistry and Protein Engineering
K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35
B-9000 Gent
Tel: +32 (0)9 264 52 73
Fax: +32 (0)9 264 53 38

Edwin De Pauw & Guy Maghuin-Rogister
Université de Liège (ULg)
Centre for Analysis of Residues in Traces
Institut de Chimie, Bat. B6c
B-4000 Liège
Tel: +32 (0)4 366 34 14 (Edwin De Pauw) ;
Tel: +32 (0)4 366 40 40 (Guy Maghuin-Rogister)
Fax:+32 (0)4 366 34 13 (Edwin De Pauw) ;
Fax:+32 (0)4 366 40 44 (Guy Maghuin-Rogister);

Wim Stevens & Didier Ebo
Universiteit Antwerpen
Department for Immunology, Allergology and Rheumatology
Campus Drie Eiken
Universiteitsplein 1
B-2610 Antwerpen
Tel: +32 (0)3 820 25 94 (Wim Stevens)
Tel: +32 (0)3 820 25 95 (Didier Ebo)
Fax: +32 (0)3 820 26 55

Follow-up committee

Wendie Claeys - SPF Santé publique, Sécurité de la Chaîne alimentaire et Environnement
Etienne Cools - Ministère de la Communauté française
Geert De Poorter - Agence fédérale pour la sécurité de la chaîne alimentaire (AFSCA)
Philippe Delahaut - Centre d'Economie Rurale
Ghislaine Dufourny - Centre d'Enseignement et de Recherche des Industries Alimentaires et Chimiques
André Huyghebaert - Agence fédérale pour la sécurité de la chaîne alimentaire (AFSCA)
Stéphanie Kirsch - Université de Liège
Sigrid Laureyssen - Test-Achats
Jean Pottier - SPF Santé publique, Sécurité de la Chaîne alimentaire et Environnement
Wim Reybroeck - Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research
Isabelle Scarniet - Test-Achats
Maud Sermeus - Federatie Voedingsindustrie (FEVIA)
Arjon Van Hengel - Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM)
Marleen Van Meldert - Vlaamse Beroepsvereniging van Voedingsdeskundigen en Diëtisten
Jean-Michel Wal - Laboratoire d'immunoallergie alimentaire - France

Documentation :

Development of an integrated strategy for controlling the allergen issue in the Belgian food and catering industry (Annexes available upon request (ALLERRISK) : final report  De Loose, Marc - De Meulenaer, Bruno - De Pauw, Edwin ... et al  Brussels : Belgian Science Policy, 2011 (SP2306)
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Ontwikkeling van een geïntegreerde strategie voor de beheersing van de allergenen-problematiek in de Belgische voedings- en catering industrie : samenvatting van de resultaten    Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2011 (SP2307)
[To download

Development of an integrated strategy for controlling the allergen issue in the Belgian food and catering industry : résumé des résultats    Bruxelles : Politique scientifique fédérale, 2011 (SP2308)
[To download

Development of an integrated strategy for controlling the allergen issue in the Belgian food and catering industry : summary of the results    Brussels : Belgian Science Policy, 2011 (SP2309)
[To download

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