Confirmation of presence of allergens

Once all the above steps have taken place, food manufacturers are able to make a judgement based on all the evidence obtained as to whether a product contains or is free from a particular allergen. Information should be provided to allergy sufferers to enable them to select suitable foods for their diet. The provision of information to consumers on packaged food and food sold loose is discussed later in the chapter. In addition, a number of tests are available that can be used to analyse products for the presence of a given allergen. Generally a radio-immunoassay technique is used which checks samples of a product for specific proteins that have been previously identified as allergens. These tests can be useful, but in some instances results do need to be interpreted with care. Any analysis is only as accurate as the samples that are taken. The sampling of liquid or fluid foods gives a relatively reliable sample, as the food can be further blended to give an even distribution of all ingredients. The sampling of foods such as breakfast cereals, chocolate bars and other more complex foods poses a number of difficulties. A number of samples could be taken randomly from the food according to good practice, but there is a chance that the one small piece of allergen, be it a flake of nut or a grain of milk powder, could be missed. The results achieved would give a false negative, suggesting that a product is free from a particular allergen, as a random sampling technique did not actually pick up the small amount of allergen present. Such tests should not be used to give definitive information about the presence or absence of allergens in a product.

Their use complements the results obtained from a full HACCP study that should be undertaken on each product.

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