GMOs and allergens
Detection of GMOs in foodstuffs and mandatory labelling
EC Regulation No. 1829/2003 and No. 1830/2003 represent the current legal term of reference on GMOs in Europe. One of the most important sections of the aforementioned regulations relates to the labelling requirement for GMOs authorised to be placed on the market.
The labelling requirement does not apply to authorised GMOs when the percentage is < 0.9% compared to an individual food ingredient or an individual component of animal feed, provided that the presence of GMOs is adventitious or technically unavoidable (operators must demonstrate that they have taken all appropriate measures to prevent their presence).
Unauthorised GMOs are in fact illegal.
The PCR technique and the qualitative method for GMOs screening
GMOs detection in foodstuff is executed through Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technique, based on the identification of elements common to genetically modified plants. The equipment used is the 7500 Fast Real-time PCR System by Applied Biosystems.
Advantages of the PCR technique
- Chemical and thermal stability of the DNA with respect to the proteins;
- High sensitivity (it can, in theory, detect the presence of a single target molecule in the sample);
- Technical simplicity and the possibility of automating the system.
Search for allergens in food products and production environments
Some ingredients or substances used in the production of food products are the cause of allergies or intolerances in consumers, in some cases representing a health hazard.
Current legislation provides for the mandatory indication of allergens on the label, which must be highlighted in a different font to the other ingredients in terms of size, style or colour, so that their presence can be quickly distinguished.
The indication of the presence of allergens becomes mandatory even for bulk products and those served in restaurants, canteens and bars.
List of allergens - For full details, please refer to Annex II to UE Reg. 1169/2011
- Cereals containing gluten and gluten derivatives
- Crustaceans and crustacean-based products
- Eggs and egg-based products
- Fish and fish-based products
- Peanuts and peanut-based products
- Soya and soya-based products
- Milk and milk derivatives
- Nuts and nut derivatives
- Celery and celery-based products
- Mustard and mustard-based products
- Sesame and sesame-based products
- Sulphur dioxide and sulphites in concentrations higher than 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/l expressed as SO2
- Lupin beans and lupin bean-based products
- Molluscs and mollusc-based products
Monitoring the search for allergenic substances is carried out directly on the food product, on environmental swabs and on rinsing water for cleaning, to search for traces of allergens on work surfaces and tools in production facilities.
The search for allergens can be conducted directly through an ELISA test or indirectly via Real Time PCR.