Of Allergens and Proteins

Posted on:January 15, 2016

Any novel food could potentially become allergenic. [Click on image for full-sized chart.]

Any novel food could potentially become allergenic. [Click on image for full-sized chart.]

January 15, 2016—Global Food Forums, Inc.—The following is an excerpt from the “2015 Protein Trends & Technology Report: Formulating with Proteins,” sponsored by Arla Foods Ingredients. 

There are a lot of myths about food allergens, including the myth that certain proteins are non-allergenic. In fact, every protein has the potential to become an allergen. The key to dealing with allergens is careful management within manufacturing facilities and clear communication to consumers on the food label.

Food allergies are abnormal responses of the human immune system to substances in food. “When an individual is exposed to protein, that exposure can stimulate the creation of IgE antibodies that create sensitivity to that protein. Individuals don’t have symptoms during the sensitization phase. The next time the individual is exposed to the protein, however, the body reacts and releases a host of physiologically active substances in tissues and the bloodstream,” explained Steve Taylor, Ph.D., Food Allergy Research & Resource Program, University of Nebraska, in his presentation titled “Allergens—It’s Really Just a Management and Communications Issue.”

Eight foods (cows’ milk, egg, crustacean, fish, peanut, soybean, tree nuts and wheat) are the most common causes of food allergy. These Big 8 are responsible for 90% of all food allergies on a global basis. Common allergenic foods in other countries include buckwheat in Japan and lupine in the EU. Kiwi was introduced into the human diet in the last half century and is now the most common allergenic fruit in Europe and the U.S., Taylor went on to say.

The most common allergenic foods tend to be consumed frequently and in relatively large quantities. With the exception of crustaceans, they are typically consumed in early life stages. Most are excellent sources of protein. Another factor that determines allergenic capability of a food is resistance to digestion in the stomach, which allows the proteins to enter the small intestine in an immunologically active form.

To predict the allergenic potential of a novel protein, one should first perform a thorough review of global allergenic literature. Explore if the protein ingredient is allergenic in other countries; if it contains a potentially cross-reactive protein; or if it is botanically related to other allergens. Insects are invertebrates, as are crustacean shellfish. Taylor recommended putting a warning on insect ingredients, such as “Not suitable for individuals with shrimp allergies.”

Food allergens are commonly classified into families by their shared amino acid sequences and conserved 3-D structures. Knowing if a novel food source contains any of these amino acid sequences could help predict if that food could one day become allergenic.

There are four main families of plant-based food allergens. 

Prolamin superfamily—this includes Ara h 2, which is present in peanuts. This family includes allergens in walnuts, peanuts, sesame, mustard and sunflower. It also includes gliadin, a component of gluten.
Cupin superfamily, which includes seed storage proteins, peanuts, soybeans and other legumes.
Bet v 1 family, which is present in birch trees.
Profilins, present in all species of animals and plants but not a major concern, because they are heat-labile.

There are also three main families of animal-based food allergens.
Tropomyosins—the major allergens of crustacean shellfish and, probably, insects.
EF hand proteins, which include parvalbumin, the major allergen in fish.
Caseins—the major allergens in milk.

Foods should not be marketed as non-allergenic. It would be more accurate to state that the product “contains no commonly known allergenic foods.” Companies working with novel protein ingredients might consider seeking insights from the FDA as to how that organization will handle new information about potential allergens, advised Taylor. Companies should also be aware that regulations for novel food products in other countries may differ from U.S. regulations. With clear labeling, consumers who develop allergic reactions will be able to avoid the offending food. Allergenic potential should not be a deterrent to marketing of novel food protein sources.

Steve Taylor, Ph.D., Professor and Co-director, Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, University of Nebraska,, +1.402.472.2833,


Processing Technologies and Their Central Role in Clean Label Products

Posted on:January 8, 2016
Processing technology is a big part of creating clean label products consumers will accept.

In meeting the marketing department’s demands, packaging is the most visible—but also one of the most impactful—for delivering clean label products that are commercially viable. [©iStockphoto]

January 8, 2016–Global Food Forums, Inc. — The following is an excerpt from the “2015 Clean Label Report,” sponsored by Loders Croklaan, RiceBran Technologies and SunOpta. 

PROCESSING PANEL, Speaker 1: Jeffrey Andrews, “Technology: The Core Ingredient in Natural Foods”

Meeting the demands of an ever-changing marketplace, which includes Millennial moms among many other groups, is a challenge for food processers. Food processors must do market research to anticipate trends and directions, so they can introduce products in a timely manner. Meeting consumer trends can create demands with which R&D and plant personnel often struggle, since they may be technically infeasible, said Jeffrey Andrews, Sr. Director of Contract Manufacturing, HP Hood, presenting “Technology: The Core Ingredient in Natural Foods” for a panel on processing advances relevant for clean label products.

Technology is one of the best tools food processors have in their arsenal to meet these demands, especially technologies that help produce foods that have clean labels and/or appear fresher. When one steps back and looks at how the food industry has grown, there is a direct correlation between the development and implementation of new technologies and getting new and more desirable products to market.

There is a broad range of such technologies. They include filtration technologies; thermal processing technologies, especially high-temperature, short-time or agitating processes that produce minimal changes in flavor and texture; high- pressure processing which may be used for processing high-value products without altering characteristics; in-package technologies for pasteurization or sterilization; and packaging technologies employing new materials and/or modified atmospheres.

In meeting the marketing department’s demands, packaging is the most visible—but also one of the most impactful—for delivering clean label products that are commercially viable. I-beam film skeletons allow film properties to be modified through the insertion of components that expand the capabilities of the package. They allow for better control of moisture-vapor transmission, enhanced vitamin retention and the adoption of a lighter overall package.

Processors can also better manage oxygen in packages through gas flushes, utilization of modified-atmosphere packaging, pulling a vacuum or the addition of oxygen scavengers. If a decision is made to use any of the oxygen technologies, such as vacuum or modified atmospheres, processors also need to adopt packaging that best showcases the technologies.

Millennial moms are demanding consumers with a strong interest in clean label products. Oddly, in order to meet their demand for simple, fresh food, the food processors must turn to the technologist to make it happen.

Jeffrey Andrews, Sr. Director, Contracting Manufacturing, HP Hood,, 1-617-887-8440,


Processing, Characteristics and Uses of Extruded Plant Protein Ingredients

Posted on:January 5, 2016
Mian Riaz, PhD, on textured vegetable protein's characteristics as meat substitute.

Textured vegetable protein products can be made to look and behave like various meats, with similar composition, appearance, texture, water absorption and rehydration time. Cooking characteristics can also be similar.
(Click on image for larger PDF version.)

January 5, 2016—Global Food Forums, Inc.—The following is an excerpt from the “2015 Protein Trends & Technology Report: Formulating with Proteins,” sponsored by Arla Foods Ingredients. 

Vegetable proteins can be texturized and extruded into different shapes, forms and uses for a variety of applications. In some cases, this provides a more feasible option to increase the protein content of a food than working directly with the food matrix. While many plant protein sources can be used for texturized vegetable protein (TVP) products, soy is the most common. About 80-90% of the TVPs found in the market place today are soy-derived.

Other proteins that can be texturized include wheat, peanut, chick pea, green pea, lentil and yellow pea. But, “in order to create TVPs, the functionality, composition and behavior of the proteins used must be understood,” explained Mian N. Riaz, Ph.D., Director, Food Protein R&D Center, Texas A&M University, in his presentation “Processing, Characteristics and Uses of Extruded Plant Protein Ingredients.”

For example, vital wheat gluten is the primary protein component in wheat-based raw materials. It is very hydroscopic and sticky. Pea protein concentrate, with 46% protein, would typically also contain 17% starch, 18% sugars, 4% ash, 2.7% oil and 2% crude fiber. In contrast, a faba bean protein concentrate of 63% protein may contain only 0.1% crude fiber.

Soybeans can be made into flour, soy protein concentrate, grits or flakes. The process is very complex, with extractions, purification and concentration. Alterations in any step can impact the finished ingredient—and every process adds cost—which explains why soy protein isolates and concentrates are so expensive.

“Because of their higher cost, soy concentrates and isolates are rarely used alone in TVPs,” Riaz said. However, their addition improves water-holding capacity and protein content. There are at least 23 different types of soy protein concentrate for different applications, so it is important to specify the application to the vendor. The goal is to understand the functionality of the raw materials to give good texturization, he added.

It is essential to know the protein level, protein dispersibility index (PDI), nitrogen solubility index (NSI), oil and fiber content, and particle size of the raw materials. All of these properties affect texture in the finished product. Higher protein levels give firmer-to-rubbery textures. For example, at a 90% protein level, a very rubbery texture occurs, which is not desired. For textured vegetable protein products, ideally, protein should be about 50- 60% for a very good texture.

PDI and NSI are measures of a protein’s solubility in water and are related to the amount of heat treatment. “The PDI test is more rapid and tends to give slightly higher results than NSI,” said Riaz.

The ideal place to start for good texture is about 60 PDI. This attribute also affects color, with a higher PDI being lighter in color. Darker soy ingredients are typically used for feed, while lighter are used for human food products. Riaz continued to explain: “Oil and fiber content reduces [the] protein level by dilution and interferes with texturization. Soy hull fiber can cross-link with protein macromolecules, affecting structure and texture; typically, in these products, less fiber is better.”

When creating TVPs, native-state proteins are preconditioned with steam and water, where they begin to swell and unfold, and then cross-link during the extrusion process. Extrusion changes ingredients chemically and physically, and a new material is created.

An extruder is a continuous pressure-cooker to which water and raw materials are added, and temperature is increased within seconds. Depending on the type of extruder, there are many functions it can perform. Different protein products can be created, including chunk-style, shredded or structured meat analogs in any shape, size or cut.

For chunk, minced and flaked textured soy protein products, Riaz advised to use soy flour with 60-70 PDI, and 50-55% protein content. “Important properties include water absorption, oil absorption and a meat-like texture. Color can be added to make it look like beef or chicken, and flavors can also be used,” Riaz continued.

Meat analogs can look and behave just like any kind of meat with similar appearance, texture, water absorption and rehydration time. Cooking characteristics are also similar to meat. Applications include vegetarian diced-meat dishes, stew meat, jerky, barbecue, pot pie, pasta and more.

Mian N. Riaz, Ph.D., Director, Food Protein R&D Center, Texas, A&M University,


Structure, Functions and Applications

Posted on:December 1, 2015

A simplified overview of functions and limitations of some traditional and emerging proteins provides a few considerations to their use. (Click on image for PDF of chart.)

December 1, 2015—Global Food Forums, Inc.—The following is an excerpt from the “2015 Protein Trends & Technology Report: Formulating with Proteins,” sponsored by Arla Foods Ingredients. 

When a food manufacturer decides to fortify a product with protein, they must first determine the target protein level and then develop a narrative story for consumers to believe in the product.

If the product is targeted for muscle-building, then the narrative will be different than if the product is targeted for weight management. The narrative builds credibility in the product, its purpose and what it stands for to consumers, said Julie Mann, MSc, Staff Scientist, Snacks and Adjacencies Research, The Hershey Company, in her presentation “The Protein Bridge: Linking Protein Structure to Function and Applications.”

The target level of protein influences whether to fortify with a protein isolate, protein concentrate or whole food protein product. Potential claims might be 5g of protein to make a “good source” of protein claim; 10g to make an “excellent source” claim; or simply “x grams of protein.”

If the protein does not meet protein quality standards (PDCAAS), as is the case with many plant proteins, then several proteins or additional grains may need to be combined to correct for protein quality, said Mann.

When selecting from the vast array of protein ingredients, cost and functionality are critical considerations. Mann explained: “The formulator needs to ask, what functional attributes will the protein provide? Is the ingredient readily available? Will the finished product be cost competitive, and is there price volatility?”

Meeting consumer demand for clean label and sustainability introduces other issues. Can the protein ingredient make a GMO-free claim? Has it been co-processed with other ingredients that need to be labeled? Does it allow the manufacturer to develop a narrative around sustainability: responsible water, land and fertilizer usage? These topics are becoming increasingly important to consumers today.

There are two major types of protein: globular and fibrous. Globular proteins, the predominant group, are compact, folded and generally water-soluble.  Fibrous proteins, like those in collagen and gelatin, are generally less water-soluble.  Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and differ by side chain.

“Understanding the amino acid composition of a protein provides insights  into potential functionality in the final product. For example, if there are  sulfur-containing amino acids, then expect disulfide bridges in the final  product,” said Mann.

Egg products contain cysteine and serine, which aid in structural stability through bridging. Proteins have a primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary structure. Understanding the bonding that occurs within these structures also  helps to predict the function and performance in the final product, Mann said.

Denaturation takes the protein from its compact native state to an unraveled state. It may be reversible or irreversible, and partial or complete. Denaturation results in decreased solubility, increased viscosity, altered functionality and some loss of enzyme activity. Denaturing agents include temperature, pH change, shear, high-pressure processing, salt addition, organic solvents, and oxidizing and reducing agents.

Finished product processing may involve additional pH and temperature changes, as well as interactions with air, acids, fat, flavoring agents and other components in the system. Protein ingredients can contribute to water binding, viscosity building, gelation, foaming, emulsification and browning. Understanding their functionalities up front can shorten development time; ensure stable products throughout the shelflife; and inspire development of unique functions or novel products.

Food formulators should embrace both old and new protein sources. Dairy and soy are traditional powerhouses. There is growing interest in gelatin for joint health and beauty-from-within. Pulses are already eaten in many regions of the world.

Emerging proteins include algae, canola, oats, flax, hemp, quinoa, rice, sunflower and lemna. Some have wider commercial availability than others. Exploratory proteins include insects, such as crickets and mealworms. RuBisCo is the most abundant protein on earth and is found in every green, leafy material. Developments in newer proteins are increasing at a rapid pace, due to the need to feed more and more people over the next 20+ years.

Industry doesn’t yet know whether consumers will embrace these new ingredients, or if there will be confusion and unforeseen negative baggage. Food formulators should strive to better understand the functionality of traditional proteins, while exploring opportunities to embrace novel proteins, Mann concluded.

Julie Mann, MSc, Staff Scientist, The Hershey Company,,


Protein, Appetite & Leveraging: Protein’s Role in Energy Balance

Posted on:November 24, 2015

Research into Leveraging Protein for Weight Management

Long-term benefits of higher-protein diets for weight management are, possibly, only slight. However, several paths of further investigation into proteins’ more detailed role are suggested. [Click on chart for larger image.]

November 24, 2015—Global Food Forums, Inc.—The following is an excerpt from the “2015 Protein Trends & Technology Report: Formulating with Proteins,” sponsored by Arla Foods Ingredients. 

Advice for weight loss used to be simple: Eat less of everything. “This approach has not worked, and we are focused on identifying those unique foods and components that may play a role in weight reduction,” stated Richard Mattes, Ph.D., Purdue University, in his talk “Protein, Appetite & Leveraging: Protein’s Role in Energy Balance.”

Mattes posed the question, “Are all calories equal? At the molecular level, the answer is yes.” “However,” he noted, “several food components are of interest for weight control at the organ and whole-body level, and research is showing that the energy from each may not be equal.”

Protein is one such food component that might alter other food choices. Some work indicates there might be a “protein-specific” effect, as rats deprived of protein will show a preference for protein consumption when provided access. Similar results have been noted in pregnant animals. Further, when fed a protein-restricted diet for 12 days, animals will try to “make up” the deficit when allowed protein for one hour per day.

Evidence in humans indicates that when protein-deprived, protein consumption will be favored—as evidenced by heightened intake of soup containing either casein hydrolysate or MSG—both providing cues that protein is present.

Epidemiologic data shows the intake of fat and carbohydrate varies widely between countries, but protein intake is very constant at 12-16% of energy. In the U.S. over the last four decades, both fat and carbohydrate consumption have changed markedly, yet protein levels have remained constant. This suggests a biological basis for consumption.

Mattes described the theory of “protein leveraging,” which suggests human intake of protein is a primary determinant of energy intake. That is, if the protein content in the diet is low, humans will eat more food in order to meet optimal protein status. However, all three studies directly testing the protein leveraging hypothesis have not supported the theory.

While not playing as central a role as the protein leveraging hypothesis predicted, protein can alter diet or physiological functions (such as thermogenesis). Such effects may be small, but they might aid in weight management—while contributing positively to diet quality.

Several meta-analyses of shorter-term, tightly controlled feeding studies showed greater weight loss, fat-mass loss and preservation of lean mass after higher-protein, energy-restriction diets.

Leidy, et al., reviewed 24 acute feeding trials of ≥120 minutes containing low- and high-protein isoenergetic meals with different protein intakes (≥10g) and with less than 40% of calories as fat. A modest satiety effect, including greater perceived fullness and elevated satiety hormones after higher-protein meals, was confirmed, but an effect on energy intake at the next eating occasion wasn’t shown, said Mattes.

People will lose weight on energy-restricted diets with or without high levels of the protein. However, diets that contain between 1.2-1.6g protein/kg/d and are consumed in a distributed fashion providing 25–30g protein/meal may provide improvements in appetite and body-weight management. Further, higher-protein
diets are associated with greater retention of lean mass—which is beneficial in maintenance of losses in body weight.

The vehicle in which protein is delivered is very important. Greater satiety and a more consistent decrease in energy intake have been shown when protein is fed in solid form rather than as a beverage.

In summary, Mattes noted, “Higher-protein diets may enhance fullness under selected conditions and have higher thermogenic properties that may very modestly aid weight loss or maintenance. Such diets are associated with greater retention of lean body mass and higher resting energy expenditure, and may be associated with lower energy intake acutely. High-protein diets may promote very modest reduction of body weight and fat mass, and somewhat positively aid weight maintenance. However, these effects may require substantive increases of protein intake, a behavior change that has proven difficult for most people to follow.”

Richard D. Mattes, MPH., Ph.D., RD, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition Science, Purdue University; Affiliated Scientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center,, 1.765.494.0662,


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