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Better protection for allergic people: new test methods for detecting substances in foods that can trigger allergies

36/2012, 06.11.2012

Workshop "Allergens in food" run by the LGL and BfR in Munich

About 100 food experts will meet at the LGL in Munich on the occasion of an event co-organised by the Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authority (LGL) and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and held on 7 and 8 November 2012. They will look into detection methods for allergy-provoking substances in food, so-called allergens. The focus of the two-day workshop "Allergens in food - current developments in analysis" is on optimising and developing new analytical detection methods for allergenic substances. Potential allergens such as celery, peanuts and gluten-containing cereals must be stated on the food packaging anywhere in the European Union now. In order to check the legal requirements, sensitive analysis procedures are necessary which are capable of quickly and reliably detecting components even in the trace range. This is important because even the trace amounts of highly allergenic substances can cause severe allergic reactions. "Traces of allergenic ingredients in food should be reduced to the greatest possible extent. What is required is a quick and easy analysis directly in the food processing facility", says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. LGL President Dr. Andreas Zapf: "Allergic people in particular depend on correct labelling of food and must not be exposed to any health risk. For this reason, safe and efficient detection methods for allergens play an important role in consumer health protection."

At the event, the results of two research projects undertaken by the LGL and BfR were presented. They were concerned with the development of detection systems for allergen components in food. As part of the joint project QUALITY at the LGL promoted by the BMELV, the development of a quick detection system for quantitative allergen monitoring on the basis of real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is presented. This testing procedure which was co-developed at the LGL can detect allergenic ingredients in food faster and with higher precision than before. The new detection method has the advantage that one screening method is sufficient to detect several allergenic ingredients at the same time in a single analysis. The fast detection system can be used across the entire food production chain, from the production process to official monitoring. In a second analysis, the precise amount of the allergen can be determined. As part of the method development, the new testing system was already used in the analysis of samples from official food control administration.

In a second joint project promoted by the BMELV which the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is coordinating, quick tests and screening methods for the qualitative detection of food allergens on site in product development and control were developed. This includes immunological quick test systems (“dipstick tests”) which can be conducted on site without sophisticated devices and high personnel costs. In addition, a method was developed which enables detection of several allergenic substances in a single analysis run. As part of this analysis, real-time polymerase chains (real-time PCR) are used. This method permits detection of the DNA sequences foran animal or plant species. The combination of PCR systems is flexible and can be adapted to a specific product group, for example for detecting nuts and cereals in confectionary and pastry (“ready-to-use”). The suitability for routine testing of the ready-to-use PCR procedure developed at the BfR was demonstrated with trade and process samples and will undergo final testing in a round robin test with unknown samples used in different laboratories.

Additional information and the programme for the event can be accessed at www.lgl.bayern.de.

Media representatives are very welcome. Please register in advance by contacting the press office of the LGL: 09131 6808-2424 or pressestelle@lgl.bayern.de

About the LGL

The Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety (LGL) is the central scientific authority of the Free State of Bavaria for food safety, health, veterinary science and industrial / production safety. It monitors the health situation of the population and promotes preventive measures. In addition, it tests the quality and safety of food, feed and products. The LGL also makes an important contribution in the area of animal health in terms of animal diseases, animal protection and animal veterinary medical products.

About the BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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