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Code: f27
Latin name: Bos spp.
Source material: Raw meat (thick flank)
Several allergens present in cow dander and hair are also found in beef and milk.

Allergen Exposure

Meat from bovines.
Unexpected exposure
Undeclared ingredient in processed meat, like sausages, patês, etc.
Bacterial vaccines containing bovine serum albumin.

Potential Cross-Reactivity

Presence of common allergens in milk, meat, and dander from cow has been demonstrated.

Clinical Experience

IgE-mediated reactions
Allergy to beef is not very common and beef can often be tolerated by cow's milk-allergic patients.

Beef contains BSA and gamma-globulin, which are known heat-labile fractions in cow's milk, and differing clinical response to raw and well-cooked beef is shown in some millk-allergic patients.

The bovines compose one of the largest families of the even-toed hoofed animals. The domesticated bovine cows seem to have originated from ancient India where they are much respected as life-giving creatures. The herders then moved on to North Africa and Europe. Cows were introduced in North America in the 16th century and reached Australia about 200 years later.
Clinical experience
Allergy to beef is not very common and beef can most often be tolerated by cow’s milk-allergic patients. Of 132 atopic dermatitis children evaluated, 15 had positive challenge to milk, but only two to beef (1). However, beef contains BSA and gamma globulin which are known heat-labile fractions in cow’s milk. There might be additional unique heat-labile fractions in beef which may explain the differing clinical responses to raw and well-cooked beef in some milk-allergic patients (2).
IgE antibodies to bovine serum albumin were found in a man with eosinophilic gastroenteritis and positive skin tests for calf, pig and lamb sera (3). Another study showed that four out of six children sensitized by beef had albumin-specific IgE antibodies (4). It has also been suggested that immunization programs with bacterial vaccines containing bovine serum albumin can induce beef allergy (5).
Several allergens present in cow dander and hair are also found in beef and milk (6).


  1. Sampson, HA. Food hypersensitivity as a pathogenic factor in atopic dermatitis. NER Allergy Proc; 1986; 7: 511-519.
  2. Werfel, SJ; Cooke, SK; Sampson, HA. Clinical reactivity of beef in children allergic to cow´s milk.
  3. Verdaguer, J; Corominas, M; Bas, J; Valls, A; Mestre, M; Romeu, A;
    Gonzalez, L; Massip, E; Buendia, E. IgE antibodies against bovine serum albumin in a case of eosinophilic gastroenteritis. Allergy; 1993; 48: 542-546.
  4. Fiocchi, A; Restani, P; Riva, E; Qualizza, R; Bruni, P; Restelli, AR; Galli, CL. Meat allergy: I. Specific IgE to BSA and OSA in atopic, beef sensitive children. J Am Coll Nutr; 1995; 14: 239-244.
  5. Hollander, DH. Beef allergy and the Persian Gulf syndrome. Med Hypotheses; 1995; 45: 221-222.
  6. Prahl, P. Allergens in cow hair and dander. Allergy; 1981; 36: 561-571.


As in all diagnostic testing, the diagnosis is made by the physican based on both test results and the patient history.