Effect of proteolysis during Cheddar cheese aging on the detection of milk protein residues by ELISA

Katherine O. Ivens, Joseph L. Baumert, Robert L. Hutkins, Steve L. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Cow milk is a common allergenic food, and cow milk-derived cheese retains an appreciable level of allergenicity. The specific and sensitive detection of milk protein residues in foods is needed to protect milk-allergic consumers from exposure to undeclared milk protein residues contained in foods made with milk or milk-derived ingredients or made on shared equipment or in shared facilities with milk or milk-derived ingredients. However, during cheese ripening, milk proteins are degraded by chymosin and milk-derived and bacterial proteases. Commercial allergen-detection methods are not validated for the detection of residues in fermented or hydrolyzed products. The objective of this research was to evaluate commercially available milk ELISA kits for their capability to detect milk protein residues in aged Cheddar cheese. Cheddar cheese was manufactured at a local dairy plant and was aged at 5°C for 24 mo, with samples removed at various time points throughout aging. Milk protein residues and protein profiles were measured using 4 commercial milk ELISA kits and sodium dodecyl sulfate-PAGE. The ELISA data revealed a 90% loss of milk protein residue signal between the youngest and oldest Cheddar cheese samples (0.5 and 24 mo, respectively). Sodium dodecyl sulfate-PAGE analysis showed protein degradation throughout aging, with the highest level of proteolysis observed at 24 mo. Results suggest that current commercial milk ELISA methods can detect milk protein residues in young Cheddar cheese, but the detection signal dramatically decreases during aging. The 4 evaluated ELISA kits were not capable of detecting trace levels of milk protein residues in aged cheese. Reliable detection of allergen residues in fermented food products is critical for upholding allergen-control programs, maintaining product safety, and protecting allergic consumers. Furthermore, this research suggests a novel use of ELISA kits to monitor protein degradation as an indication of cheese ripening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1629-1639
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • cheese
  • milk
  • proteolysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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