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Module 5: Allergenicity

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Properties of Food Allergens

General Characteristic of allergenic food proteins

Many foods contain a variety of proteins, but only a few of the many proteins are known allergens. Most allergenic food proteins are stable molecules, that are resistant to food processing, cooking, and digestive processes (8). Allergenic food proteins tend to be major components in the allergen extract or major proteins in the implicated foods (13). And as with any allergen, true food allergens must be able to stimulate an immune response (11). This immune response and its components will be discussed shortly.

Most Common Allergenic Foods

The potential to elicit an allergic reaction is possible in any food that contains protein, however there are common allergenic food groups (8, 14). These include:

  • Milk & milk products
  • Eggs & egg products
  • Tree nuts & nut products
  • Crustacea - shrimp, crabs, lobsters
  • Shellfish - clams, oysters, scallops
  • Legumes - peanuts, soybeans
  • Gluten-containing products - wheat, rye, barley, oats
  • Fish & fish products


Recent estimated suggest that approximately 2-2.5% of the general population suffer from food allergies (1). Infants and children are more commonly affected by food allergies than other groups, but the incidence of food allergies decreases with age. The awareness of food allergies has increased and an increasing percentage of the public believes that they, or a family member, have food allergies (1). As a result, more individuals may seek specialized medical attention from allergists.

Discussion Question :

Do you think increased awareness of food allergies among the public has increased the diagnosis of true food allergies?



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