Food allergy as a biological food quality control system

Cell. 2021 Mar 18;184(6):1440-1454. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.12.007. Epub 2021 Jan 14.


Food is simultaneously a source of essential nutrients and a potential source of lethal toxins and pathogens. Consequently, multiple sensory mechanisms evolved to monitor the quality of food based on the presence and relative abundance of beneficial and harmful food substances. These include the olfactory, gustatory, and gut chemosensory systems. Here we argue that, in addition to these systems, allergic immunity plays a role in food quality control by mounting allergic defenses against food antigens associated with noxious substances. Exaggeration of these defenses can result in pathological food allergy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology
  • Food / adverse effects*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Food Hypersensitivity / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity
  • Models, Biological
  • Quality Control


  • Allergens