Food Forensics: A Case of Mistaken Identity

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This lesson is designed to serve as an introduction to the immune system. It can stand alone or it can lead into further studies of the immune system. The primary focus of this inquiry-based lesson is antigen-antibody specificity. After focusing the learners' attention on allergic reactions to foods, two hands-on experiments allow learners to explore the specific reaction between an antigen and the antibody that recognizes it. Learners carry out an exploratory experiment leading to the concept of specificity. A second experiment allows learners to apply the techniques and concepts learned in the first activity and subsequent discussion to solve a mystery. This lesson can be used in association with topics such as allergies, food safety, or antigen-antibody precipitation. An entire packet complete with preparation instructions and student sheets can be obtained from the St. Louis Mathematics and Science Education Center (address listed in resource).

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
1 to 2 hours

Learning Time:
2 to 4 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Anti-chicken egg albumin (Sigma Chemical Co.)
  • 2 - 1.5% agar plates
  • 6 mm diameter soda straw
  • Toothpick
  • Glass marking pen
  • Small quantities of raw egg white (diluted 1:625)
  • Small quantities of uncooked egg-enriched pasta (1:40)
  • Small quantities of uncooked egg-free pasta (1:40)
  • Samples of various foods: some positives (egg-containing) like mayonnaise (1:10), custard (1:10), pasta (1:40), baked items (1:10), egg white AND some negatives (without egg) like sugar, salt, milk, beef broth, molasses, etc.
  • .85% saline (for dilutions)
  • Fine-tipped dropping pipettes (plastic)
  • Test tubes or flasks for food solutions


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Cell Structure and Function
    • Human Body
      • Health and Nutrition
      • Immune System
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Crime Science
  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Grupe, Michael