Background: Pseudoallergic reactions (PARs) against both additives and natural foods have been reported to elicit chronic urticaria, but in natural food the responsible ingredients are largely unknown.
Objective: The study was aimed at identifying novel pseudoallergens in food and focused on evaluating tomatoes, white wine, and herbs as frequently reported food items eliciting wheal responses in urticaria.
Methods: In 33 patients with chronic urticaria and PARs to food (proved by means of elimination diet and subsequent re-exposure with provocation meals), oral provocation tests were performed with field-grown tomatoes, organically grown white wine (whole food, steam distillates, and residues), oily extracts from herbs, and food additives. In addition, skin biopsy specimens from patients were studied for in vitro mast-cell histamine release with tomato distillate alone or on subsequent stimulation with anti-IgE, substance P, and C5a.
Results: Seventy-six percent of patients reacted to whole tomato (steam distillate, 45%; residue, 15%), 50% to food additives, 47% to herbs, and 44% to whole wine (extract, 27%; residue, 0%). Histamine, protein, and high levels of salicylate were only found in residues. The tomato distillate was further analyzed by means of mass spectroscopy, identifying low molecular-weight aldehydes, ketones, and alcohol as major ingredients. In vitro histamine release was not caused by tomato extract itself but was enhanced by means of subsequent stimulation with substance P and C5a but not by anti-IgE.
Conclusion: Aromatic volatile ingredients in food are novel agents eliciting PARs in chronic urticaria. Histamine, salicylate, and a direct mast-cell histamine release are not involved in this reactivity to naturally occurring pseudoallergens.