Genetic ID, a global company involved in testing foods for genetically modified organisms, has developed a series of tests to detect allergens in food products. The new Quick-Check allergen test series is capable of detecting the presence of as little as one or two allergen marker-molecules within the DNA found in a food sample.
Allergen testing is becoming an increasingly important aspect of quality assurance in food production because up to 3.5 per cent of adults and more than 5 per cent of children under age three suffer from food allergies. Reactions can range from mild unpleasant symptoms to deadly anaphylactic shock.
The only way to prevent allergic reactions is to avoid foods containing allergens. However, while it is easy for individuals to shun whole peanuts or fish fillets, it is difficult to avoid allergens in complex multi-ingredient foods.
For example, peanut residue, in even tiny amounts, could unintentionally pass from one production run to the next, contaminating a product supposedly free from peanuts. This would result in accidental contamination of foods made during the second manufacturing run with undeclared allergens which could result in harmful or fatal allergic reactions in consumers, and lead to product recalls and brand damage.
Genetic ID claims that its Quick-Check allergen test series is sensitive and capable of detecting even minute traces of an allergenic substance, even in the presence of highly complex food matrices. The test series is able to detect the major allergens listed for the United States, Canada, Japan and Europe. These include peanuts, soy, wheat and tree nuts such as almond, hazelnut, pecan, and walnut.
The company also claims that unlike other allergy tests, Quick-Check can detect all classes of seafood, including fresh and salt-water fish, clams, oysters, muscles, shrimp, and lobster. In addition, the tests are capable of specifically determining the presence of any of the seafood classes listed.
Genetic ID says that the DNA-based tests are highly accurate and sensitive, and able to detect allergens in processed foods. This is because DNA is less likely to be broken down by food processing and remains detectable.
The company claims that protein-based ELISA tests are less sensitive, and are often unable to detect allergens once the food has been cooked or otherwise processed. However, protein-based tests are recommended for dairy and eggs in samples containing cattle and/or chicken.
"With our expertise in the use of DNA-based, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology to detect genetically modified ingredients, it was a natural progression to apply this technology to allergen detection," said Genetic ID president Bill Thompson.
"The Quick-Check allergen test series will provide food manufacturers, as well as distributors and retailers, with another effective quality assurance tool."