The food allergens community has long recognized gaps and impediments that have limited the certification and/or adoption of methods to demonstrate reliable performance and reproducibility. In part, these include reference materials and incurred sampling and usage; they also include validation guidelines to evaluate method performance, training, and proficiency.
In 2020, AOAC formed a funded, multi-year science program for food allergens and gluten to coordinate all future consensus-driven needs for development, validation, and implementation of methods for the analysis of a wide range of food-associated allergens and gluten.
Most food recalls are due to either microbial contaminants or the unintended adulteration of foods with known allergens and gluten, i.e., through cross-contamination or mislabeling. AOAC has long recognized the significant impact the latter has had (and continues to have) on the health and safety of food allergic populations. Through its stakeholder consensus working groups and its Food Allergens Community, AOAC continues to address the analytical difficulties that have long impeded the development of sensitive and specific testing methods.
The Gluten & Food Allergens program is guided by an Advisory Panel comprised of funding organizations to confirm priorities and working group objectives. This panel meets quarterly to review progress and consider additional objectives. The goals of the program are to discuss analytical challenges in validating food allergen test methods and to develop consensus-based Standard Methods Performance Requirements (SMPRs).
Current working group objectives include:
If you are a method developer, you can can influence the development of consensus standards, which will be used by AOAC Expert Review Panels to evaluate your candidate methods for possible adoption as AOAC Official Methods of Analysis. Official Methods of Analysis are the benchmark for trade resolutions, instill consumer confidence, and contribute to consumer safety.
If you are a food manufacturers or food distributor, you can ensure the program priorities meet your needs through AOAC’s standards development process, encourage the development of Official Methods, provide a validated analytical means needed to meet regional and international regulatory requirements, and protect producers and consumers alike, maintain the reputation of products and ultimately improve the quality and safety of the food supply.
For all, this program will create much-needed reference methods for commodities that do not currently exist, generate reliable data for effective compliance-driven quality control of food materials and products, and support the development of standards leading to Codex Type II methods for dispute resolution in international trade.