Stakeholders including food regulators, producers, test kit and equipment manufacturers and representatives from consumer groups have outlined voluntary guidelines for consumer food allergen and gluten testing devices.
They stress that consumer devices should not be used in isolation to determine a food is safe to eat.
Guidelines cover kit validation and performance, user sampling instructions and interpretation of results.
Analytical tests in hands of consumers
Challenges include food matrices being diverse (high or low sugar, high or low fat, acid or basic, processed or unprocessed) and inhomogeneous, meaning that a sample from one section of the plate is not representative of another part.
Also, consumers may not use the device according to the manufacturers' instructions and they may misinterpret positive or negative results as food being unsafe or safe.
Recommendations are based on current technologies, analytical expertise and standardized AOAC Allergen Community Guidance and best practices on analysis of food allergens and gluten.
Contributors come from firms including Romer Labs, Zeulab, R-Biopharm, ImmunogenX and FOCOS Food Consulting.
The work is part of a 25-article open access special section in the Journal of AOAC International.
Consumer demand for more info
Consumer Analytical Devices are available in the clinical field. They measure blood-glucose levels in blood and keto-bodies in urine and are specific to work for one single, well-defined matrix.
Analytical tests for food have been performed primarily in laboratories but technical developments now enable consumers to use devices to test their food at home or when dining out.
One group is based on NIR sensors and measures freshness and nutritional values such as Scio and Telspec and the second group is to test food for the presence of allergens and gluten.
Demand is driven by the increase in food allergies as well as consumer desire for more information about what is in their food.
However, there have been cases of results obtained with these devices not matching those from standard lab tests for allergens or gluten, conducted by ELISA or PCR.
The authors said it is of utmost importance that the right information is provided to consumers and devices function accurately in their hands.
The document is the first in a series intended to provide general guidelines applicable to consumer devices for all food analytes.
Future publications will give guidance and validation protocols for devices designed to detect individual allergens and gluten.
Source: Journal of AOAC International
“Stakeholders’ Guidance Document for Consumer Analytical Devices with a Focus on Gluten and Food Allergens”
Authors: Popping, Bert; Allred, Laura; Bourdichon, François; Brunner, Kurt; Diaz-Amigo, Carmen; Galan-Malo, Patricia; Lacorn, Markus; North, Jennifer; Parisi, Salvatore; Rogers, Adrian; Sealy-Voyksner, Jennifer; Thompson, Tricia; Yeung, Jupiter