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Literature review: 'in vitro digestibility tests for allergenicity assessment'

on the Wiley Online Library


The present document has been produced and adopted by the bodies identified above as author(s). This task has been carried out exclusively by the author(s) in the context of a contract between the European Food Safety Authority and the author(s), awarded following a tender procedure. The present document is published complying with the transparency principle to which the Authority is subject. It may not be considered as an output adopted by the Authority. The European Food Safety Authority reserves its rights, view and position as regards the issues addressed and the conclusions reached in the present document, without prejudice to the rights of the authors.


A systematic review of in silico and in vitro digestibility tests has been undertaken which identified a lack of harmonised test conditions that made comparison of test results difficult. Specific issues that should be considered further include a need for a clear description of the source and specific activity of the proteases used for the assays. Many reports only describe the pepsin:protein ratio on a (w:w) basis and do not take account differences in enzyme activity despite being a key descriptor for any digestion test. Given that that “batch” assays cannot replicate the dynamic digestive process it may be necessary to consider including several analyses undertaken using pH conditions and pepsin:protein ratios that represent physiological ranges. In this way the tests can be readily adapted to take into account individuals with impaired digestive capacity or the widespread use of ant-acids. In addition, the time course and sampling regime employed need to be harmonised and standardised methodology identified for monitoring protein digestion. Digestion needs to be followed using methods suitable for profiling of both large resistant fragments and lower molecular weight peptides. Such standardisation could build on the harmonised approaches developed by the proteomics community regarding, for example, optimal SDS-PAGE and trypsin digestion conditions and replication. This is a prerequisite before a consensus can be agreed as to what is meant by “resistance” to digestion. There was a lack of inclusion of comparator and standardised proteins to be included in tests. Based on published data a suggestion is made regarding a potential “reference” set of allergens, most of which can be purchased. However, whilst “non-allergenic” comparator proteins can be identified they are less readily sourced.

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