Food Proteins in Human Breast Milk and Probability of IgE-Mediated Allergic Reaction in Children During Breastfeeding: A Systematic Review

J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2022 May;10(5):1312-1324.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2022.01.028. Epub 2022 Feb 2.


Background: Previous reports suggested that food proteins present in human milk (HM) may trigger symptoms in allergic children during breastfeeding, but existing evidence has never been reviewed systematically.

Objective: To assess the probability of food proteins in HM to trigger allergic reactions in infants with IgE-mediated food allergy.

Methods: Electronic bibliographic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE) were systematically searched from inception to November 3, 2021. The data regarding the levels of food proteins detected in HM were extracted and compared with data from the Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling (VITAL 3.0) guide to assess the probability of food-allergic individuals to experience immediate type allergic reactions on ingesting HM.

Results: A total of 32 studies were identified. Fourteen studies assessed excretion of cow's milk proteins into HM, 9 egg, 4 peanut, and 2 wheat; 3 measured levels of cow's milk and egg proteins simultaneously. We found that levels of all food proteins across the studies were much lower than the eliciting dose for 1% of allergic individuals (ED01) in most of the samples. The probability of an IgE-mediated allergic reaction in a food-allergic infant breastfed by a woman consuming the relevant food can be estimated as ≤1:1000 for cow's milk, egg, peanut, and wheat.

Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first systematic review that assesses and summarizes evidence on food proteins in HM and potential for IgE-mediated allergic reactions. Our data suggest that the probability of IgE-mediated allergic reactions to food proteins in HM is low.

Keywords: Allergens; Allergy; Breast milk; Breastfeeding; Child; Cow’s milk; Egg; Food allergy; Food proteins; Gliadin; Human milk; Infant; Peanut.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens
  • Animals
  • Arachis
  • Breast Feeding
  • Cattle
  • Female
  • Food Hypersensitivity* / diagnosis
  • Food Hypersensitivity* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate*
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Infant
  • Milk Hypersensitivity* / diagnosis
  • Milk Proteins
  • Milk, Human
  • Probability


  • Allergens
  • Milk Proteins
  • Immunoglobulin E