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The Rise of Allergens: Launch of New Reference Materials
The term 'allergy' is used to describe a reaction by the body's immune system to a substance, which for most people, is harmless. An allergic person's immune system believes allergens to be damaging and so produces a special type of antibody (IgE) to attack the invading material. This leads other blood cells to release further chemicals (including histamine) which together cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction. The prevalence of people with food allergies continues to grow, presenting a challenge and an opportunity for food industry.
Allergy is a chronic disease that is expected to affect more than 50% of all Europeans in 10 years' time (EAACI, 2011)
Millions of adults suffer from at least one allergy, the numbers are continuing to rise
Each year the number of allergy sufferers increases by 5%, half of all affected being children
Allergenic ingredients must be indicated in list of ingredients with clear reference to name of the substance or product as listed in the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation No.1169/2011. This legislation outlines the 14 allergens (and products thereof) that must be labelled or indicated as being present in foods and are:
Cereals containing gluten, namely: wheat (such as spelt and khorasan wheat), rye, barley, oats
Crustaceans for example prawns, crabs, lobster, crayfish
Sulphur dioxide/sulphites, where added and at a level above 10mg/kg or 10mg/L in the finished product. This can be used as a preservative in dried fruit Lupin, which includes lupin seeds and flour and can be found in types of bread, pastries and pasta
Molluscs like, mussels, whelks, oysters, snails and squid
Allergens are some of the protein components of foods. The most common technique to measure these proteins is an antibody-based system, typically a commercial ELISA kit which consists of an extraction procedure, suitable antibodies and a calibrator. Alternatives such as DNA-based methods are less effective as they are indirect indicators of allergenic materials, while new mass spectrometric methods - which could be more precise - are still in development. These alternatives are also more expensive than ELISA kits for laboratories to purchase.
Currently there are no methods to properly compare ELISA kits and standardise the different systems
As a result, up until NOW there has been no means of producing reliable reference materials to provide a means of calibration
The new materials will enable laboratories around the world to comprehensively evaluate and compare their methods and capabilities when testing food samples for allergens
Fapas, a global leader in proficiency testing, has now developed allergen reference materials that will allow food laboratories to evaluate their methods and results. This will lead to more uniform testing, safer foods – and ultimately, we hope, fewer allergen related health issues