Lactic Acid Starter
Cultures May Contain Milk
Is this possible?
According to the Food & Allergy Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) and Food
Standards Australia & New Zealand (FSANZ), lactic acid starter cultures
may contain milk. The most likely reason for this is due to the fact
that many lactic acid starters or lyophilized probiotic cultures are
produced by fermentation in dairy whey and casein growth media.
How can probiotics contain milk and soy?
Recently, a case was reported of an infant with documented cow's milk
allergy who had anaphylaxis 15 minutes after ingestion of a probiotic
preparation (Moneret-Vautrin et al., 2006). In a follow-up study, three
probiotic preparations used widely in France were tested for the presence
of cow's milk proteins to assess their potential to cause reactions
in milk allergic individuals. Two of these were found to contain significant
amounts of allergenic milk proteins. The manufacturers of these preparations
indicated that the two products were grown on lactoserum proteins and
casein-containing media. The third prepration, which tested negative
for the presence of cow's milk protein, however, was grown in the presence
of hydrolyzed soy proteins. These results indicate that probiotic preparations
can be unsafe for individuals with severe allergies because of residual
allergens (such as milk or soy) contained in the culture medium.
Is there a need for allergen management and
allergen testing by probiotic providers?
The authors of this study suggested that serious efforts need to be
made by probiotic providers to establish processing procedures that
efficiently eliminate food allergens from culture media, to evaluate
the residual allergen content in their culture preparations by specific
allergen testing, and finally to indicate on the label the characteristics
of the media used to culture the cells. Currently, there are no such
measures in place. FACTS has obtained positive results for milk protein
in lactic acid starter cultures commercially available in South Africa
using the milk-specific ELISA test.
What else should be taken into consideration?
Finally, it is important to note that the fact that starter cultures
and probiotic preparations may contain milk protein from the culture
media does not preclude the possibility of the products tested in this
study from being further contaminated with milk protein from the processing
USFDA (2006). Agency Response Letter - Objection Lyophilized Probiotic
Cultures FALN No. 006 (Docket No. 2006FL-0287).
Moneret-Vautrin et al. (2006). Probiotics may be unsafe in infants allergic
to cow's milk. Allergy, 61, 507-8.