Barriers to food allergen analysis

At the September 2016 AOAC International Meeting, Belgium-based PhD student Melanie Planque was awarded a Best Poster Prize for her work entitled “Highlight on bottlenecks for allergen control in food”. She has recently published some of her work, which looks at the difficulties in developing efficient allergen detection methods, in the Journal of AOAC International.

The main analytical methods available for allergen detection include ELISA, PCR and mass spectrometry but each analytical method has idiosyncrasies that can lead to false positive or negative results. Melanie’s research measured the major influences of both processing and matrix effects on the detection of egg, milk, soy and peanut allergens in foodstuffs with the aim of bringing greater attention to these issues.

The main barriers cited in the paper include the lack of regulatory thresholds for each of the main allergens, delays in the emergence of reference materials and guidelines, and difficulties in detecting allergenic proteins that may have been changed in the food manufacturing process. Additionally, the many ways of expressing results of the analyses can make it difficult to compare between different methods. For examples, results may be expressed as soluble proteins, peptides, total proteins or even food allergen ingredients.

The abstract to Melanie’s award-winning poster can be accessed on the NAmur Research Institute for LIfe Sciences (NARILIS) website.

Reference: Planque, et al. 2016. Journal of AOAC International. DOI: