In the EU and a few other countries, mustard belongs to the 14 allergens that must be labeled as an ingredient in food products. The mustard allergy is widespread in countries such as France and Spain but also in India.
Mustard seeds consist of more than 20% proteins and a few of them have an allergenic effect. Sensitive people can also have allergic reactions to small quantities of allergens in a food. The symptoms include skin rash, swelling, shortness of breath, asthma, stomach ache, nausea and vomiting through to anaphylactic shock. Persons concerned must strictly avoid all food containing mustard. Mustard is a popular condiment and can be contained in various different foods, for example, in mayonnaise, sauces, salad dressings, ketchup, marinades, pickles, sausages and meat products. Furthermore, the use of mustard is widespread in French, Italian and Russian cuisine; mustard seeds and mustard oil are also frequently used in Indian cuisine. Some people with a mustard allergy do not have any cross-sensitivities toward other food such as fruit or nuts.
There are significant shortcomings in labeling and quality assurance with regard to the allergen. As a result, examinations frequently find undeclared traces of mustard in food. Cross-contaminations are an important source of danger that occurs during processing (dust formation during grinding) or while packaging. Within the scope of allergen management, it is necessary to perform a hygiene control of surfaces in the production area. This is to ensure that the cleaning of the production facilities was complete and sufficient. Rapid tests such as lateral flow tests (immunochromatographic test systems) are very suitable in order to check surfaces, e.g. in production facilities or rooms for an allergenic contamination, as part of an HACCP concept.
The most important allergy-triggering proteins in mustard are heat-stable and processing does not have an impact on their allergenic effect. Therefore, it is important to use test systems that can also detect processed mustard proteins.