A research laboratory has developed new tests that enable processors to identify pine nuts and chestnuts in food, which could help protect consumers with allergies.
Food processors are becoming more concerned about nut contaminants in their products due to increasing regulations and the serious health risks exposure can induce in allergy sufferers.
With new regulations designed to protect sensitive consumers, a labelling error can result in costly product recalls and loss of consumer trust.
UK-based Reading Scientific Services (RSSL) claims its protein and DNA methods have been developed to detect trace amounts to a sensitivity of 100 parts per million.
Although pine nuts and chestnuts are not currently on the EU's list of allergens that must be labelled on products, they are known to likely affect people who suffer from other allergies.
People who are allergic to nuts are more likely to suffer allergic reactions to pine nuts, which are in fact seeds. Chestnuts contain allergens that can also be found in coconut, kiwi and mango and latex, which affect many people.
In the UK, the introduction of a voluntary allergen certification program is imminent. Funded by the nation's regulatory body - the Food Standards Agency (FSA) - and coordinated by an allergy support charity - The Anaphylaxis Campaign - the new guidelines are due to be launched later this year.
They involve comprehensive guidance for processes in manufacturing plants in order to minimise the risk of contamination or mislabelling.
Testing products will enable food processors to comply, which could lead to greater understanding of product ingredients by consumers, and therefore, increased brand trust.
Consultancy and training services for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles are available from RSSL to help companies prevent cross contamination.
RSSL stressed that testing alone does not guarantee products are allergen free, but plays an important role in HACCP practice and investigating complaints of suspected contamination.
These products and others will be under discussion at a meeting organised by RSSL in London on 5 June, 2007. "Managing the Challenge of Allergen Control" aims to assemble a team of industry experts to share perspectives for dealing with allergen risk, with contributions from retailers, manufacturers, consumer groups and medical professionals.
RSSL's allergen testing laboratory is on call 24/7 as part of its emergency response service.