Jump to main content
Jump to site search

Issue 1, 2016
Previous Article Next Article

Is food allergen analysis flawed? Health and supply chain risks and a proposed framework to address urgent analytical needs

Author affiliations

Abstract

Food allergy is an increasing problem for those affected, their families or carers, the food industry and for regulators. The food supply chain is highly vulnerable to fraud involving food allergens, risking fatalities and severe reputational damage to the food industry. Many facets are being pursued to ameliorate the difficulties including better food labelling and the concept of thresholds of elicitation of allergy symptoms as risk management tools. These efforts depend to a high degree on the ability reliably to detect and quantify food allergens; yet all current analytical approaches exhibit severe deficiencies that jeopardise accurate results being produced particularly in terms of the risks of false positive and false negative reporting. If we fail to realise the promise of current risk assessment and risk management of food allergens through lack of the ability to measure food allergens reproducibly and with traceability to an international unit of measurement, the analytical community will have failed a significant societal challenge. Three distinct but interrelated areas of analytical work are urgently needed to address the substantial gaps identified: (a) a coordinated international programme for the production of properly characterised clinically relevant reference materials and calibrants for food allergen analysis; (b) an international programme to widen the scope of proteomics and genomics bioinformatics for the genera containing the major allergens to address problems in ELISA, MS and DNA methods; (c) the initiation of a coordinated international programme leading to reference methods for allergen proteins that provide results traceable to the SI. This article describes in more detail food allergy, the risks of inapplicable or flawed allergen analyses with examples and a proposed framework, including clinically relevant incurred allergen concentrations, to address the currently unmet and urgently required analytical requirements. Support for the above recommendations from food authorities, business organisations and National Measurement Institutes is important; however transparent international coordination is essential. Thus our recommendations are primarily addressed to the European Commission, the Health and Food Safety Directorate, DG Santé. A global multidisciplinary consortium is required to provide a curated suite of data including genomic and proteomic data on key allergenic food sources, made publically available on line.

Graphical abstract: Is food allergen analysis flawed? Health and supply chain risks and a proposed framework to address urgent analytical needs

Back to tab navigation

Publication details

The article was received on 17 Jul 2015, accepted on 27 Oct 2015 and first published on 30 Oct 2015


Article type: Critical Review
DOI: 10.1039/C5AN01457C
Citation: Analyst, 2016,141, 24-35
  • Open access: Creative Commons BY license
  •   Request permissions

    Is food allergen analysis flawed? Health and supply chain risks and a proposed framework to address urgent analytical needs

    M. J. Walker, D. T. Burns, C. T. Elliott, M. H. Gowland and E. N. C. Mills, Analyst, 2016, 141, 24
    DOI: 10.1039/C5AN01457C

    This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Licence. Material from this article can be used in other publications provided that the correct acknowledgement is given with the reproduced material.

    Reproduced material should be attributed as follows:

    • For reproduction of material from NJC:
      [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the RSC.
    • For reproduction of material from PCCP:
      [Original citation] - Published by the PCCP Owner Societies.
    • For reproduction of material from PPS:
      [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the European Society for Photobiology, the European Photochemistry Association, and RSC.
    • For reproduction of material from all other RSC journals:
      [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry.

    Information about reproducing material from RSC articles with different licences is available on our Permission Requests page.

Search articles by author

Spotlight

Advertisements