[Food additives and genetically modified food--a risk for allergic patients?].

Praxis

PubMedID: 10321121

Wüthrich B. [Food additives and genetically modified food--a risk for allergic patients?]. Praxis (Bern 1994). 1999;88(14):609-14, 616-8.
Adverse reactions to food and food additives must be classified according to pathogenic criteria. It is necessary to strictly differentiate between an allergy, triggered by a substance-specific immunological mechanism, and an intolerance, in which no specific immune reaction can be established. In contrast to views expressed in the media, by laymen and patients, adverse reactions to additives are less frequent than is believed. Due to frequently "alternative" methods of examination, an allergy to food additives is often wrongly blamed as the cause of a wide variety of symptoms and illness. Diagnosing an allergy or intolerance to additives normally involves carrying out double-blind, placebo-controlled oral provocation tests with food additives. Allergic reactions to food additives occur particularly against additives which are organic in origin. In principle, it is possible that during the manufacture of genetically modified plants and food, proteins are transferred which potentially create allergies. However, legislation exists both in the USA (Federal Drug Administration, FDA) and in Switzerland (Ordinance on the approval process for GM food, GM food additives and GM accessory agents for processing) which require a careful analysis before a genetically modified product is launched, particularly where foreign genes are introduced. Products containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) as additives must be declared. In addition, the source of the foreign protein must be identified. The "Round-up ready" (RR) soya flour introduced in Switzerland is no different from natural soya flour in terms of its allergenic potential. Genetically modified food can be a blessing for allergic individuals if gene technology were to succeed in removing the allergen (e.g. such possibilities exist for rice). The same caution shown towards genetically modified food might also be advisable for foreign food in our diet. Luckily, the immune system of the digestive tract in healthy people tolerates foreign antigens. Food allergies in adults occur mainly among those allergic to pollen.