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Allergen testing aids coconut product recalls

Allergen testing aids coconut product recalls

Date Published: 29-Oct-15

ChemCentre’s food science team has been hard at work analysing coconut products for milk allergens in the wake of two anaphylactic reactions in recent months in NSW.

The reactions sparked a recall by the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) which was expanded to all states when initial testing by ChemCentre revealed the presence of unlabelled milk proteins in WA products. These milk allergens were at sufficient levels to trigger allergic reactions in susceptible people.

Ken Dods, Food Scientist at ChemCentre, said the milk products were likely added by overseas producers where ingredient control and food production is not as controlled.

“The milk proteins were probably added as thickeners to make the product creamier. We have found them in a wide range of products and have tested products ranging from coconut ‘dairy free’ ice cream to flavoured coconut milk drinks,” said Ken.

Since the initial discovery, ChemCentre has worked closely with FSANZ, the WA Health Department and the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture (imported goods) to test over 30 samples from a wide array of importers.
“The results we provide are legally defensible so importers supplying products containing unlabelled milk proteins are able to be legally prosecuted. Several importers have already been prosecuted for not meeting Australian labelling requirements,” said Ken.

Allergens are detected using an immunoassay technique that identifies specific milk based proteins in the same way that roadside drug tests selectively detect their chemicals of interest. The milk allergens selectively bind to a target chemical producing a colour change. The intensity and wavelength of the colour produced can be measured to determine the concentration of the milk protein in the product.

ChemCentre provides testing and expert analysis for allergens in food products including seafood, nuts, dairy, egg, gluten, sesame, and soy residues in food. The food science team is the one of the many skilled groups of scientists at ChemCentre working in the fields of environmental chemistry, emergency response, and forensic science.

For more information on product recalls and allergen labelling requirements, visit the FSANZ website. To enquire about ChemCentre’s food science services please contact us.

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