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UMC Utrecht and TNO collaborate in research on food-borne factors in allergic and inflammatory diseases. We develop and apply methods to identify food-borne factors that influence the inflammatory state of our body. A good inflammatory balance is crucial for our health. On the one hand we need inflammatory processes, on the other hand they have to be controlled and suppressed. The inflammatory balances are determined by an interplay between intrinsic properties (such as our genome) and extrinsic factors. The most abundant exposure to extrinsic factors is through our food, but we actually know very little about which and how food-borne factors affect our immune system. The role of the intestinal microbiome and particularly its metabolites are of course very important, but on its turn, the intestinal microbial metabolome is also strongly influenced by what we eat. And also in this respect, we know very little about which factors do this in which way and how that influences immune functions. Our research aims to elucidate how we can use diet as an intervention or to support interventions in immune health, to develop better diagnosis, patient stratification, and population and personalized management, therapy and prevention of inflammatory diseases.
Food allergy is one of the major inflammatory diseases and a major cause of loss of health, loss of quality of life, and losses due to food recalls. All these losses are mainly due to difficulties that food business operators and authorities experience in implementing risk assessment and risk management principles for food allergens. During past decade, we have become world leading in the development of risk assessment and risk management methodologies in food allergy. The hurdle of poor development and implementation of regulatory solutions is partly due to a lack of consensus among stakeholders regarding the most appropriate parameters and criteria for risk management. To promote discussion between stakeholders on how allergenicity could be better defined for the purpose of risk assessment and risk management, we took the lead in publishing a discussion paper on defining the targets for the assessment of allergenicity. Another major step made in 2020 was our publication of the full range of Eliciting Dose values for 14 major allergenic foods, derived from the largest threshold database worldwide, hosted at TNO. This publication enables risk assessors in industry as well as authorities to use this information for state-of-the-art food allergen risk assessment and risk management.