Food allergies represent an important health problem in industrialized countries. Undeclared allergens as contaminants in food products pose a major risk for sensitized persons. A proposal to amend the European Food Labelling Directive requires that all ingredients intentionally added to food products will have to be included on the label. Reliable detection and quantification methods for food allergens are necessary to ensure compliance with food labelling and to improve consumer protection. Methods available so far are based on protein or DNA detection. This review presents an up-to-date picture of the characteristics of the major food allergens and collects published methods for the determination of food allergens or the presence of potentially allergenic constituents in food products. A summary of the current availability of commercial allergen detection kits is given. One part of the paper describes various methods that have been generally employed in the detection of allergens in food; their advantages and drawbacks are discussed in brief. The main part of this review, however, focuses on specific food allergens and appropriate methods for their detection in food products. Special emphasis is given to allergenic foods explicitly mentioned in the Amendment to the European Food Labelling Directive that pose a potential risk for allergic individuals, namely celery, cereals containing gluten (including wheat, rye and barley) crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, soybeans, milk and dairy products, mustard, tree-nuts, sesame seeds, and sulphite at concentrations of at least 10 mg kg−1. Sulphites, however, are not discussed.
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