Mass spectroscopy (MS) is becoming a more popular way to test for food allergens in packaged foods. It’s slowly replacing the current ELISA testing procedure, which has limitations and costs that outweigh any advantages.

Most food processors currently used the federally-approved ELISA model of food testing to check for allergens. These tests sample the foods for specific allergens, one at a time, and are not always standardized in their function or capability. They are limited in that they are usually used before the food is cooked or packaged, rather than afterwards, so some false-positives or false-negatives are inevitable.

The rise of mass spectroscopy.

MS is emerging as the more promising alternative to ELISA. It’s easier to conduct, results are had quickly, and it detects more than one allergen at a time. Standardization in MS testing is now being adopted so that test results can be compared easily.

The MS test looks for amino acid sequences, which are independent of the overall 3-dimensional structure of allergens. This means that it can detect allergens even after processing, cooking, and other preparations have altered the structure of the allergen’s structure.

It can find even trace concentrations of the allergen this way and is currently one of the most common methods of allergen testing for gluten.

Advocates believe that MS should be considered as a replacement and are lobbying the FDA to do so.

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