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Food allergen: challenges and developments

Michael Walker discusses why food allergy seems to be increasing and the challenges and developments in food allergen detection.

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Food allergens must remain a priority. This was the message delivered by Michael Walker, consultant science manager and referee analyst for the Government Chemist, at the annual Association of Public Analysts conference last week.

Michael’s talk highlighted the challenges and developments in food allergen detection and management, building on research undertaken at LGC on allergen measurement and the production of allergen reference materials.

Food allergy is an acknowledged public health issue detrimental to the quality of life of those with an allergy and carries the associated risk of anaphylaxis. It is a continued priority for research into possible clinical treatments, with concentration currently on oral immunotherapy, and for improved risk management and allergen detection.

During his talk, Michael also discussed why food allergy seems to be increasing in developed societies, the steps analysts need to take to ensure correct results, metrological traceability and the interpretation of food allergen analytical results in terms of reference doses and possible ‘thresholds’. Lastly, he touched on supply chain security highlighted by recent cases in the UK courts.

Michael said: “Public Analysts provide scientific evidence in prosecutions where lives are put at risk by food fraud involving food allergens and they were keen to hear the immunological context around food allergy and the latest research carried out in the Government Chemist Programme on sound allergen measurement.”

The conference, which took place in Cambridge on the 11-12 September, featured a range of interesting speakers from the fields of science and government and included a talk by Professor Chris Elliott on his recently published review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks.

Published 15 September 2014