In Episode 4, we covered the various allergen controls and touched on validation and verification. In today’s Episode 5, we will address all available allergen testing methods.
Commonly used allergen detection methods can be divided into two groups: There are those that are carried out in a laboratory using specialized equipment, and those that can be performed onsite using little or no specialized equipment.
Laboratory-based methods can be further sub-divided into two groups: direct and indirect methods.
Direct methods detect specific proteins from the allergenic food in question, most often the allergenic proteins themselves such as with ELISA and there is also a targeted proteomics technique available known as Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass-Spectrometry.
Indirect methods detect a marker associated with the allergenic food in question, for example, its DNA. PCR is the most commonly adopted method here.
Rapid onsite testing methods
These methods are cost-effective, mobile and operators need no or very little technical skills for their application. Three types have gained popularity in recent years: allergen-specific lateral-flow devices, total protein indicators and sensitive ATP swabs.
Not all allergen detection methods are equal, therefore, it is important to understand, before submitting a sample to a laboratory and prior to choosing a rapid onsite testing kit, what the method or kit measures and whether it is the most appropriate method for your specific set of circumstances.
In Episode 6, we’ll be discussing allergen-specific lateral-flow devices in greater depth.