Dutch initiative for evaluation and quality assurance of fast methods in food safety testing
LWV19252 is an umbrella project combining two separate projects (WP1 and 2) with specific goals (2.2) each supported by their own partnership.
Food safety is primarily the responsibility of food producers. To guarantee food is safe for consumers Europe has a food safety system which is based on a regulatory framework of limits (e.g. MRLs for toxins), an EU network of reference- and expert labs, national monitoring programmes, inspections of businesses by food authorities, and increasingly, self-control programmes by industry sectors. Food industry is increasingly adopting fast test methods to analyze food safety parameters in the trade or production chain. Based on the results of these tests, producers can, when necessary, respond quickly to avoid potential safety or quality risks. Especially, the availability of reliable validated test methods is of critical importance to support the competent authorities and industry to perform food safety control in the most efficient way.
However, there are serious issues in the quality performance of fast detection methods, especially in test kits for allergens (AGs) and ergot alkaloids (EAs). Test kits developed for AGs differ considerably in quality performance and accuracy or are not fit for use with complex matrices or processed foods. Test kits available for EAs may not be sensitive enough in view of the expected change in the EU threshold values of EAs for processed grains and infant foods. Overall, quality performance of fast test kits needs to be evaluated, quality performance standards need further development for AGs. In this project, together with all partners labs we will evaluate whether commercially available test kits are fit for purpose in realistic matrices and will provide complementary reference materials and validation studies. For EAs reference materials will be made available to allow validation of new sensitive test kits for EAs. Fat Test kit performance for EAs and AGs will be benchmarked against golden standard lab bound mass spectrometry.
The aim of the present project is to evaluate the performance of test kits in comparison with established lab-based methods that are available for enforcement purposes. The project addresses call topic D (Safe Food), subtheme 3, priority 3 (call 2018/19): Development of methods for quality performance of fast test methods for the purpose of industry self-control in food safety.
The goal of the project is to develop guidelines and materials for improved quality performance of fast test methods, for the purpose of industry self-control in food safety. The project focusses on the most urgent needs in quality performance assurance of test kits for allergens (AGs, WP1) and ergot alkaloids (EAs, WP2). Reliable test methods for AGs and toxins have been shown of great value for food producers for identifying food safety or other non-compliance issues at key stages in the production chain. However, specifically for AGs, inter-test kits comparisons reveal considerable differences in performance and accuracy. Test kits specifically for AGs are found insufficiently fit for use with complex food matrices. Test kits available for EAs may not be sensitive enough in view of the expected change in the EU threshold values of EAs for processed grains and infant foods.
So overall, the project addresses gaps in knowledge and quality control materials needed to better protect vulnerable consumers, ranging from allergic consumers to infants, against the presence of toxic compounds in food.
A problem which applies to test kits in general is that tests aiming at the same target differ considerably in performance and accuracy, may be insufficiently sensitive around threshold values, or are not fit for use with complex matrices or processed foods. Incorrect test results may lead to wrong food chain management decisions which may seriously affect business to business relations, can lead to a recall of finished products, or at worst compromise the health of consumers. For AGs (WP1) critical components of a harmonized regulatory and analytical framework are still missing for the labelling of food products of unintended presence of small amounts of AGs due to cross contamination; these missing elements are the European acceptance of reference doses and reliable test methods for all different food matrices For EAs (WP2), commercially available test kits fit for use at the anticipated MLs for the different food categories are not available, and quality control (reference) materials are still missing.
1. Y1, 2 and 3. Definition of most relevant AGs and matrices, substantiated with a literature study. Over 3 years we select three different allergens.
2. Y1, 2 and 3. Select and obtain commercially available kits and reference material for each of the selected allergens
3. Y1, 2 and 3. Comparative evaluation and validation studies for each of the selected allergens
4. Y2 and 3. Benchmarking kits results (task 1-3) against golden standard mass spectrometry
5. Y3 and 4. Evaluation and presentation of the obtained results in task T1, T3 and T4
6. User guidance document for optimal use of commercial test kits in AG-matrix combinations
7. Initiative to obtain a CEN workshop agreement
8. Stakeholder meeting to discuss of project results to evaluate the project results with regard to the existing regulatory framework
1. Y1. Select and obtain commercially available kits, test samples and reference materials.
2. Y1. Select and obtain material (grains) from cereal-based food producers and prepare quality control material.
3. Y2. Validation of selected test kit and benchmarking against mass spectrometry.