February 2020

The NML at LGC announces a major development in reference materials for allergen quantification

The UK’s National Measurement Laboratory (NML) at LGC has expanded its portfolio of reference materials to include the first ever multi-allergen reference material kit containing five common allergens (milk, egg, almond, hazelnut, walnut), traceable to the SI (International System of Units).

Food allergy is a serious and growing problem, with up to 2 million people in the UK estimated to be affected. In the absence of a currently accepted cure, these individuals must avoid eating problem foods throughout their life. This can be difficult to achieve in practice, as allergens can sometimes find their way into foods unintentionally, e.g. through use of common utensils and processing lines. Even very small quantities (as little as 1/100 of a gram) of a food such as peanut can cause an unwanted reaction in a person with peanut allergy.

Analysis of food and food ingredients for allergens is vital to protect the supply chain, support businesses and secure safe food for people with allergies. However, analysis is hampered by lack of reliable reference materials to check the proper performance of laboratory tests. A recent Food Standards Agency (FSA) funded project (FS101206) set out to address this issue.

The reference material kit produced under this project by the LGC’s NML Reference Materials team, in collaboration with the University of Manchester and Romer Labs, is a world first. It will help scientists and industry by supporting method development to determine ‘true’ allergen content, and assist laboratories in monitoring the performance of methods on a day-to day basis.  This will ultimately improve the safety of food products for allergen sufferers.

The Director of Science at the Food Standards Agency, Professor Rick Mumford, said, “These reference materials are a significant development, enabling more accurate allergen measurement in food. This is essential for assessing the safety of foods for those with allergies and we are excited that these materials are now available. The FSA were pleased to be able to support this important work.”

The material LGC746-KT consists of five individual common allergens (milk, egg, almond, hazelnut, walnut), chocolate paste with five added allergic ingredients (fortified) and chocolate paste with no added allergenic ingredients (blank). LGC746-KT is available to purchase from LGC Standards. The allergen foods are also available for purchase as individual items.