Food Allergens – Testing and Control

During September 2016 the subject of food allergen testing was very much on my mind. I had attended a couple of events that had highlighted some of the good and the bad associated with analysis for allergens in food.

  • We have generally effective and reliable tools for much of our routine testing, yet it is fascinating to see how far away we are from being able to take truly accurate and precise measurements as a matter of course.
  • There are examples where analytical solutions do not perform satisfactorily, but in such instances combined and coordinated technical developments may provide high quality resolutions.
  • The food industry can rightly point to some outstanding examples of allergen control and associated training, but even such systems must be well managed to be effective.
  • There are still many examples of poorly implemented allergen control policies within the food industry, but the momentum of change is in a very positive direction.

Such thoughts brought me back to a very important point; which is that allergen control is definitely not about allergen testing. In fact, the most successful allergen control systems will require the least testing. This is because the best systems only need to use testing to confirm their effectiveness. Therefore, testing can be used to specifically target and challenge the weakest points within those systems. Costly allergen testing is kept to a minimum, and the useful information gathered from that testing is maintained at a maximum.

The fact remains that analysis for the presence of allergens should be no more than one small piece in the comprehensive jig-saw of allergen management within an FBO.

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