Tech Tip: Scales in Food Allergen Detection

August 26, 2021

Video Transcript

Many times at NEOGEN® technical service we receive questions around the sensitivity related to food allergen detection methods. And so I always like to explore this topic with some of our audience members.

Really what we're talking about is the sensitivity and then the terms and the scale in which it's expressed, because there's not a universally accepted scale for food allergens. There are many methods that express their result in terms of part per million, but I always like to ask the question "part per million of what?"

To illustrate, I'll use milk as an example. There are some test kits out there that will express in part per million non-fat dry milk which is a commonly expressed scale. There are other test kits that will express terms in part per million milk protein, which is 36% component of non-fat dry milk. And then yet there are still other test kits that will express in terms of part per million casein or whey which is a specific protein fraction, being 80% casin of that protein 20% whey.

And so you can start to see there are multiple ways of expressing these results, none of which are right or wrong. But it is critically important to understand because when you start to compare results you can make more informed decisions about how to manage the data and defend that data and methodology. For example if you were going through a FSMA audit and someone were to ask you in a "scientifically" defendable way how you chose that method one could express those results appropriately.

I think there's a temptation sometimes to view a number and look at it as more or less sensitive without considering the units when it comes to allergen testing. We take this example and translate it into our non-scientific lives that would be like expressing a speed limit for example in terms of 80 kilometers per hour and then saying that a 50 mile per hour speed limit is significantly lower because it's a lower number when quite frankly they are the exact same speed.

And so these are sorts of things that we can consider when we're looking at the importance of units when expressing a result. I would urge everyone to do the same when looking at their allergens.

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Category: Beverage, Prepared Food & Ingredients, Produce, Food Service, Tech Tips