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Allergy Asthma Proc. 2000 Sep-Oct;21(5):301-6.

Latex protein: a hidden "food" allergen?

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  • 1Laboratory of Immunobiology, Guthrie Research Institute, Sayre, Pennsylvania 18840, USA.


Avoidance of latex allergens is the primary method to prevent adverse reactions. Natural rubber latex is found in many different products in both the health care industry and in modern society, and consequently results in unexpected exposures of sensitized individuals. The use of latex gloves by food handlers provides one potential route for inadvertent exposure to latex allergens. In this study we have used two immunological methods to determine whether latex proteins are transferred to foods following contact with latex gloves. Direct transfer of latex protein to cheese was visualized using a modified immunoblot method. Sliced cheese was touched with a gloved finger. A nitrocellulose membrane was applied to lift the potential fingerprints and a rabbit anti-latex antiserum was used to visualize the transfer of any latex finger-prints. After handling lettuce with gloves, transferred protein was recovered by extracting the lettuce and quantified using an inhibition ELISA for latex proteins. Fingerprints of latex protein were readily detectable on cheese after contact with powdered latex gloves, but not with vinyl gloves. Furthermore, powdered latex glove use resulted in measurable amounts of latex protein on lettuce with an exposure-dependent increase in the latex protein levels. Lettuce alone or lettuce handled with vinyl gloves was negative for latex protein. The use of latex gloves by food handlers is the source of an indirect food additive in the form of latex proteins. It is recommended that food handlers avoid the use of latex gloves to eliminate inadvertent exposure of latex-sensitive individuals.

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