Foods tested to determine if allergens are present species present in food samples

Allergens have long been one of the most prevalent food safety topics for consumers, hospitality businesses and food industry professionals alike. Even more so in recent years due to the tragic events that triggered the introduction of Natasha’s law - the new labelling legalisation relating pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) foods that will be enforced in England from October 2021. 

Tests are not always black and white with 14 recognised allergens to consider, having a better understanding of ingredients, processes, testing and limitations would be of great benefit to any food enterprise looking to protect their customers (foremost) as well as their business from financial and reputational damage in relation to allergens. Considering the ingredients list and where the raw materials are processed or produced, and the chances of incidental or even intentional are substitution important factor to identify risk and subsequently inform a programme for testing. Garlic is a good example, it is a root crop and has often been grown in rotation with peanuts (groundnuts). Peanuts are a legume and are used for fertility building so work well in rotation with garlic – however, it introduces an additional (unexpected) risk with garlic. Turmeric (another root crop) can also be grown or rotated with peanuts. Understanding production risks upstream is important in assessing risk. Where is your material coming from? What risks are associated with this?

Testing is an excellent tool in the defence against allergen control but arbitrary uninformed off the shelf testing isn’t always enough to ensure good practice and protection. Understanding the allergenic proteins, the testing and cross-reactivity limitations can help avoid misinformed decisions. Minor exposure to peanut can be fatal for some allergy sufferers and therefore the food industry must source the most sensitive test kits, but cross-reactivity with other related species needs to be understood.  

At Food Forensics tests kits are selected based on declared ingredients. If we have a positive on one test, to rule out cross reactivity, we immediately rerun on another kit with a different set of cross reactivity. If these both return positive, we report a positive. If, on the second test, the sample reports a negative, we recommend running through NGS to understand what ingredient is present causing the cross reactivity.

Tests are not always black and white – know what questions to ask.

Talk to us about your testing needs. We hold UKAS flexible scope for allergen testing.

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