September 2014

Government Chemist and LGC discuss the latest allergen measurement techniques

Food allergy is an acknowledged public health issue detrimental to the quality of life of those with an allergy and carries the associated risk of anaphylaxis. It is a continued priority for research into possible clinical treatments, with oral immunotherapy a current focus, and for improved risk management and allergen detection.

In a feature published in the IFST Food Science & Technology journal, Michael Walker, Consultant Referee Analyst for the Government Chemist, and Hazel Gowland, Food Adviser for the UK Anaphylaxis Campaign, review the latest allergen measurement techniques and describe how allergen cases are being dealt with in the UK courts.

The feature, published in the September 2014 issue, outlines the need for reliable methods for the detection and quantification of food allergens, and for well-defined reference materials and reliable methods of recovery. The authors also highlight the importance of the availability of certified reference materials (CRM) and the work that LGC is undertaking in this area.

The article describes an unusual crown court case involving sabotage, by peanuts, of the production area of a plant manufacturing nut-free ready meals, and the analysis that LGC carried out in its role as Government Chemist for the investigation. Other cases collated include two fatalities owing to inadvertent consumption of food the victims were allergic to and several criminal food law prosecutions.

The article, 'Food allergy – a forensic perspective', is available on the Food Science & Technology website.