Food allergen reference materials and what they mean for industry

Michael Walker explores the importance of allergen quantitative risk assessment and the role of allergen reference materials in improving food allergen analysis for better consumer safety

In a New Food article last September I explained how allergen quantitative risk assessment (QRA) works and can benefit consumers and businesses.1

I also emphasised there is more work to be done, not least in improving food allergen analysis. One way to achieve this is with allergen reference materials (RMs). The Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/ World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) Expert Consultation on priority allergens was the latest in a long list of publications calling for more extensive provision of accessible allergen RMs. I worked alongside an experienced team on the development of the first multi-allergen reference material kit containing five priority allergens. These are milk, egg, almond, hazelnut and walnut. We incurred each at 10 mg/kg as the allergen protein into a clinically and industrially relevant matrix. The resulting reference materials were characterised, assessed for homogeneity and stability and are gravimetrically traceable to the international system of units (SI). The raw materials are also available as allergen RMs in their own right and we were pleased that ISO 17034 accreditation was awarded for all these allergen RMs.