Allergenic sensitization versus elicitation risk criteria for novel food proteins

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The value of criteria used in the weight-of-evidence assessment of allergenic risk of genetically modified (GM) crops has been debated. This debate may originate, in part, from not specifying if the criteria are intended to contribute to the assessment of sensitization risk or elicitation risk. Here, this distinction is explicitly discussed in the context of exposure and hazard. GM crops with structural relationships with known allergens or sourced from an organism known to cause allergy (hazard) are screened for IgE-antibody reactivity using serum from sensitized individuals. If IgE reactivity is observed, the GM crop is not developed. While digestive and heat stability impact exposure and thus the elicitation risk to sensitized individuals, these attributes are not interpretable relative to sensitization risk. For novel food proteins with no identified hazard, heat stability cannot be validly assessed because relevant IgE antibodies are not available. Likewise, the uncertain and sometime non-monotonic dose relationship between oral exposure to allergens and sensitization makes digestive stability a poor predictor of sensitization risk. It is hoped that by explicitly distinguishing between sensitization risk and elicitation risk, some of the debate surrounding the weight-of evidence criteria for predicting the allergenic risk of GM crops can be resolved.

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