RSSL extends allergen testing capability

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food allergy

Reading Scientific Services Ltd (RSSL) has announced that it has validated new methods to test for the presence of fish and molluscs in food products.

The company said with the addition of these new tests, it now has the capability to detect all 14 allergens that must be labelled if present in food products, under the provisions of EU Council Directive 2003/89/EC and its amendments; molluscs and lupin were added to list in 2007.

“The new tests use externally developed real-time PCR techniques adapted by RSSL for commercial use. We already have our own PCR methods for a wide variety of nuts, as well as lupin, mustard and celery, while ELISA methods are used for ingredients such as egg, milk, sesame and nuts,”​ said the company.

Only about eight types of food are thought to be responsible for causing the majority of food allergies, including foods such as cow’s milk, egg, fish and shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and soya.


Barbara Hirst, technical manager of RSSL’s DNA and protein laboratories, claims that allergen management is currently one of the major challenges for food manufacturers, with the mislabelling of allergens accounting for approximately half of all food recalls announced by the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during 2008

She added that this expanded analytical capability of RSSL complements the training and allergen consultancy it also provides.

In order to implement the regulations under the EU Directive, food manufacturers must have a detailed knowledge of the constituents of a product from each stage of the supply chain. This poses few problems for ‘simple’ ingredients like wheat flour or milk powder, but becomes quite complex when compound foods are involved.

Best practice

The Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) states that dealing with at least the major serious food allergens is an essential part of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP).

To prevent adverse reaction to their products, food manufacturers, claims the Institute, must take care

• to formulate foods so as to avoid, wherever possible, inclusion of unnecessary major allergens as ingredients;• to organise raw material supplies, production, production schedules and cleaning procedures so as to prevent cross-contact of products by ‘foreign’ allergens;• to train all personnel in an understanding of necessary measures and the reasons for them;• to comply with the relevant labelling legislation providing appropriate warning to potential purchasers of the presence of a major allergen in a product;• to have in place an appropriate system for recall of any product found to contain a major allergen not indicated on the label warning.


The FSA has produced a detailed guidance document about allergen labelling, which can be which can be downloaded here.

Regulation in the US is by the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 and the FDA’s list of allergens that must be indicated in labelling includes milk, egg, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, soybeans (or protein derived from any of them).

The FDA has produced an on-line Guidance for Industry: Questions and Answers Regarding Food Allergens, which can be downloaded here​.

Related topics Processing & packaging Allergens

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