Food allergy affects up to 6% of Europeans. Allergen identification is important for
the risk assessment and management of the inadvertent presence of allergens in foods.
The VITAL® initiative for voluntary incidental trace allergen labeling suggests protein
reference doses, based on clinical reactivity in food challenge studies, at or below
which voluntary labelling is unnecessary.
Here, we investigated if current analytical methodology could verify the published
VITAL® 2.0 doses, that were available during this analysis, in serving sizes between
5 and 500 g. Available data on published and commercial ELISA, PCR and mass spectrometry
methods, especially for the detection of peanuts, soy, hazelnut, wheat, cow's milk
and hen's egg were reviewed in detail. Limit of detection, quantitative capability,
matrix compatibility, and specificity were assessed. Implications by the recently
published VITAL® 3.0 doses were also considered. We conclude that available analytical
methods are capable of reasonably robust detection of peanut, soy, hazelnut and wheat
allergens for levels at or below the VITAL® 2.0 and also 3.0 doses, with some methods
even capable of achieving this in a large 500 g serving size. Cow's milk and hen's
egg are more problematic, largely due to matrix/processing incompatibility. An unmet
need remains for harmonized reporting units, available reference materials, and method
ring-trials to enable validation and the provision of comparable measurement results.