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Development of innovative rapid test and screening methods for the detection on-site of food-borne allergens in product development and control

09/2009-02/2013

This third-party funded project is conducted in the framework of the BfR research program for functional analytic and early risk detection.

Support code of the Federal Government, the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE): FKZ 2816400508

In Europe, fifteen food allergens have to be labelled according to the legislation. The detection of allergens is a challenging task because the list of allergens contains extended species groups like fish, crustaceous animals, molluscs or tree nuts. Furthermore, a particular risk is given by hidden allergens, which might release severe reaction in sensitized persons.  Thus highly sensitive methods are needed to investigate processed food.

One aim of the project was the development of an innovative DNA  based method (PCR, polymerase chain reaction) for the simultaneous detection of up to eight allergens in one experiment. Therefore ‘ready-to-use’ reaction plates were developed and validated as an appropriate screening tool. This part was done at the BfR, Department Food Safety. On the other hand immunologically based rapid tests which could be applied without special laboratory equipment were established and validated by the industrial partner ifp GmbH, Berlin.  Apart from high risk allergens like soybean or peanut also allergens which are rare or still difficult to detect like different mustard species, uncommon nut species, celery, crustaceous animals and molluscs were included into the research program.  With regard to the current threshold debate the rapid tests were enough sensitive to ensure the determination of allergens in trace amounts down to ≤ 10 ppm (mg/kg). The newly developed methods are intended to be used by official control labs as well as in quality control by the food industry. To demonstrate that the developed methods are fit for purpose, the immunological rapid tests were assessed with samples derived from a processing plant at Zentis GmbH & Co. KG, Aachen. The ‘read-to-use’ PCR method was tested with chocolate and cookies containing traces of peanut in an international ring trial with eleven European laboratories.

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