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Allergens

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White Lab Laboratories offer their customers state-of-the-art testing techniques for the detection of possible allergens in food by adopting the most effective extraction methods for each food matrix.

Our laboratories are equipped with the most advanced technologies and instrumentation to ensure quality data and speed of execution.

Food allergens are one of the areas that are most closely related to final consumer safety, as food allergy (FA) - i.e. an immunological adverse reaction to food - is classified as a real disease with high impact on the quality of life of the affected people.

Most of food allergens are water-soluble glycoproteins with low molecular weight that are stable to the action of heat, proteases, and acid environments. The immune system of some individuals recognises these molecules as antigens, thus generating a type 1 immune response (immediate hypersensitivity) mediated by immunoglobulin E (IgE). These reactions are dangerous because they do not depend on the dose, so that even low quantities of a specific food containing the allergen cause symptoms that can become severe, such as anaphylactic shock.

For this reason, food companies must declare on the label any ingredient or processing aid that causes allergies or intolerances, as listed in Annex II of EU Regulation No 1169/2011. Among them: cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, soybeans, nuts, mustard, celery, sesame, lupin, etc.

The allergens on the label must include not only the ingredients intentionally contained in a specific product but also and above all the allergenic substances that are present due to a possible unintentional contamination of that specific food because it has been stored in the same places or it has come in contact with the same equipment used for other foodstuffs.

In this framework, EU Regulation No 2021/382 amended EC Regulation No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs stating that:

'Equipment, conveyances and/or containers used for the harvesting, transport or storage of one of the substances or products causing allergies or intolerances, referred to in Annex II to Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011, shall not be used for the harvesting, transport or storage of any food not containing that substance or product, unless the equipment, conveyances and/or containers have been cleaned and checked at least for the absence of any visible debris of that substance or product.'

White Lab can perform any necessary testing to identify allergenic substances and ensure consumer safety and the compliance of food matrices with current regulations.

Testing and methods

The range of testing services for the identification of allergens includes
  • Accredited tests for the identification of gluten (AOAC 2012.01 2016) and hydrolysed gluten (AOAC 2015.05 – 2015). In addition, White Lab Laboratories are accredited by the Italian Coeliac Association in the 'Spiga Barrata' framework 
  • Testing to identify sulphites through an enzymatic, titrimetric and chromatographic method
  • Testing to identify lactose through an enzymatic and chromatographic method
Technologies and equipment
  • Immunoenzymatic ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay) testing, which is the most widespread technique to detect food allergens. The protein molecule of the allergen is identified through its antibody binding. Behind the apparent simplicity of this test, a proper preliminary evaluation is necessary to choose the most adequate testing kit on the basis of the information regarding variables such as denaturation, aggregation, and allergenicity of the analyte
  • Real-time PCR, an indirect method to identify the allergen, by which the allergenic molecule is not identified directly; instead, what is identified is the DNA of the species it comes from

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