The SAFE project: ‘plant food allergies: field to table strategies for reducing their incidence in Europe’ an EC-funded study
The true prevalence of food allergy as an IgE mediated reaction is still under discussion. Using apple as a model allergen source a multidisciplinary consortium worked together at developing various strategies for reducing the incidence of fruit allergies in an EC-funded project. Patient allergen profiles were established using in vitro and in vivo tests with respect to geographic area and mild or severe symptoms. Apple allergens (Mal d 1–Mal d 4) were characterised, variants identified, cloned and sequenced. These individual allergens were used to increase the sensitivity and specificity of diagnosis. Furthermore, they provided better prognosis of disease severity. RT-PCR and ELISA were developed for determining the allergen specific mRNA and expressed allergenic protein in a large number of apple cultivars. Similarly, changes in allergen characteristics from harvest through storage to processing and the impact of agronomic practices were investigated. Allergen genes were mapped on a molecular linkage map of apple. The biological function of Mal d 1 was studied using the RNA interference strategy. Finally, consumer attitudes in Northern, Central and Southern Europe were gauged on the acceptability of low allergen cultivars or a GMO and its impact on product quality.