Declaration and Detection of Allergens

Allergens

Declaration and detection of allergens

Foodstuff allergies are a frequently occurring problem and one that is increasing.  An ever increasing percentage of the population is affected. This group of people is dependent on the suitable labelling of foodstuffs to avoid unwanted allergic reactions in their daily life.

We will help you to test your products for the most common allergens. As an accredited Swiss contract laboratory, we have experience of testing for the 13 main allergens:

  • Gluten
  • Prolamins
  • Peanuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Almonds 
  • Soya 
  • Milk (casein, whey protein)
  • Beta lactoglobulin
  • Eggs
  • Crustaceans (crabs)
  • Sesame
  • Mustard 
  • Lupins

Additional allergens can also be assessed upon request.

Are you a manufacturer of special foodstuffs such as baby foods (hypoallergenic nutrition), milk products or foodstuffs for sufferers of allergies (e.g. gluten-free products)?

We will support you in complying with the highest quality requirements.

Do you have any questions on the obligation to label or on statutory regulations? 

 

We will be happy to advise you.

Read on here for more information or contact us.


What are allergens?

Allergens, e.g. peanuts, can also get into foreign products as a result of cross-contamination
Allergens, e.g. peanuts, can also get into foreign products as a result of cross-contamination

Allergens are substances that cause a hypersensitive reaction in the immune system. These reactions are, in most cases, caused by protein or by compounds of proteins. So-called IgE antibodies identify the allergen and bring the immune cells of the immune systems (mast cells) by setting the distribution of messenger substances (e.g. histamines, leukotrienes) into place to set off the allergic reactions.

In the area of foodstuffs, the relevant allergens originate primarily from the following sources: Grains (gluten and prolamins), nuts (peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds), soya, milk (casein, whey protein), beta lactuglobulin, eggs, crabs (crustaceans), sesame, mustard and lupins.

These allergens can also be found in products in which they would not per se be expected to be in. This can often be traced back to cross-contamination during the cultivation, storage, transportation or processing stages. Because the sensitivity towards these allergens is very much dependent on the person involved and from a variety of other surrounding circumstances, there are only recommendations available, and no fixed limit values.

What is the difference between allergic reactions and a food intolerance?

Strictly speaking, these are against substances such as lactose and not allergens. The food intolerances that occur with certain people cannot be traced back to a hypersensitive reaction of the immune system. They are a result of the lack of an enzyme in metabolism. When there are insufficient intestinal flora for the enzymes for the absorption of this foodstuff component, then this can lead to unpleasant consequences for the person affected. Some of the best known intolerances are lactose intolerance, fructose intolerance and Coeliac disease (gluten intolerance).

What labelling obligations exist?

The obligation to label is handled very differently in different countries. In Switzerland, in most cases, a threshold value of 0.1% of allergenic components for process-related contamination has been defined. Detailed regulations can be found in the Food Labelling Ordinance (LKV).

Independently of these regulations, many manufacturers make statements voluntarily about the unintended mixing of allergens, even if the amounts lie underneath the legally defined limits for compulsory declaration. In this case, packaging often contains the text label “May contain traces of ...”.

How are allergens detected?

Determination of allergens using the ELISA procedure
Determination of allergens using the ELISA procedure

Detection is mostly achieved by using the ELISA procedure (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay). The ELISA test is an antibody-based procedure in which an enzymatic colour reaction is measured.

Photometric measurement of the colour reaction enables an extremely precise determination of the content to very low limit values.

Using PCR analysis, the presence of a potentially allergenic ingredient can be determined with DNA detection.

Which allergens can be detected?

The most relevant allergens are routinely tested for. Because of the flexibility of the ELISA procedure however, many other antibody kits are nowadays commercially available. As a result, the number of detectable substances is rising continuously.

ELISA for validation of cleaning

Often, in the production of foodstuffs, facilities are used for a variety of different products. Cleaning the machines is carried out between the individual production runs, to avoid the transportation and carry-over of components.

A variety of methods can be used to test the efficiency of the cleaning procedure. As well as physico-chemical methods, determination using ELISA can be used here, because in this case, particularly low detection levels are reached.

Indication of quantity of allergenic components: Proportion of protein or content of the foodstuff?

There are two possibilities for obtaining an indication of the quantity of allergenic components in a foodstuff or food product: the amount of the allergen directly, or the amount calculated using a conversion factor of allergenic sources (e.g. eggs, hazelnuts etc.).

The ELISA test determines a priori only the content of a protein/allergen. So if, for example, 1% of an egg protein is detected, then this is not equivalent to a 1% egg proportion. If the content of egg protein in an egg is known, then the proportion of egg in the foodstuff being investigated can be calculated by using a corresponding conversion factor.


Our services in detail:

ELISA wells for the determination of allergens
ELISA wells for the determination of allergens
  • Consultation on the determination of allergens
  • Qualitative and quantitative allergen detection using ELISA
  • Additional services are according to the directory of services or upon request

contact person

sales for foodstuffs

Jörg Freudenberger State Certified Graduate Food Chemist

Tel. +41 58 434 42 00 Fax +41 58 434 42 01 service@ufag-laboratorien.ch

ordering information

Help for your order

newsletter

Subscribe now!

Subscribe now to the UFAG LABORATORIEN newsletter!

Title*
*Mandatory fields

infrastructure and methods

Instrumental resources