EFSA tool predicts food risk for coeliac patients

On 7th December 2023, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released the results of its exploration into how Europe can safeguard coeliac disease patients​.

EFSA researchers have investigated the causes of coeliac disease and developed a tool for screening proteins in food products and ingredients that might cause coeliac symptoms in patients. The discovery of these tools opens up opportunities for manufacturers to develop others and has the potential for use in various food safety areas.

Advancing coeliac disease understanding

Coeliac disease is caused by an immune reaction prompted by gluten and proteins in foods containing wheat, barley or rye. While symptoms vary considerably between people with coeliac disease, they typically include stomach ache, diarrhoea, malnutrition, iron deficiency (anaemia) and osteoporosis.

Studies indicate that approximately 0.7% of the population in the European Union (EU) suffers from coeliac disease, but many cases go unreported. Symptom detection and diagnoses are vital as the only therapy for coeliac disease is currently a permanent gluten-free diet. Adherence to a gluten-free diet requires considerable patient education, motivation and follow-up, a 2019 research study confirmed​.

Coeliac disease patients all share one or two molecules called HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8, which are receptors that efficiently bind fragments of gluten proteins. “This binding allows recognition of the gluten fragment by the immune system, triggering coeliac disease,” Professor Koning stated, who has investigated how coeliac disease develops and behaves and is a member of the EFSA working group that helps to assess the allergenicity of genetically modified (GM) plants.