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Validated Sandwich Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay for Casein and Its Application to Retail and Milk-Allergic Complaint Foods

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Cows' milk is a commonly allergenic food. Cross-contamination of milk proteins into nondairy, kosher-pareve foods prepared on shared processing equipment can cause severe, life-threatening reactions in milk-allergic individuals. A sandwich-type enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA; 96-well plate format) was developed for the detection of undeclared casein in foods. Rabbit anti-casein antibodies were used as the capture reagent. Food samples and standards were ground, extracted in 0.01 M phosphate-buffered saline, clarified by centrifugation, and added to the wells. Goat anti-casein antibodies were employed as the detector antibody, and the amount of antibody bound was determined with a commercial rabbit anti-goat immunoglobulin conjugated to alkaline phosphatase, with subsequent substrate reaction. Antibodies developed were specific to casein, with no cross-reaction observed with 30 foods and food ingredients. Non–milk-containing products such as fruit juices, fruit juice bars, sorbets, and dark and pareve-labeled chocolate were purchased from June 2002 through June 2003. In addition, samples allegedly causing eight milk-allergic consumer complaints were analyzed. The ELISA had a detection limit of less than 0.5 ppm of casein. The casein content in the analyzed foods ranged from less than 0.5 ppm to more than 40,000 ppm casein; undeclared casein residues were found in all of the samples implicated in allergic reactions. The levels of milk contamination in some of the other surveyed products could also be hazardous for milk-allergic consumers. This ELISA method provides a useful quality control tool for the food industry and could also be used as a validation of kosher-pareve status.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Department of Food Science and Technology, Lincoln, Nebraska 68583-0919, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2004

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