ARCHIVED - Food Allergen Method Development Program

An ambitious method development program was launched by the Food Research Division, Bureau of Chemical Safety, to address the lack of methodologies for the detection of undeclared allergens in foods. Methods were developed for the detection of peanut, soy, milk, egg, hazelnut, Brazil nut and crustacean tropomyosins. Most of these methodologies have been transferred to CFIA laboratories and constitute the backbone of the Canadian compliance program with regards to the presence of undeclared allergens in foods.


  • To maintain the independence of federal testing capabilities for allergens by providing back-up techniques and by filling the gaps in allergen methodologies where no commercially-available method exists;
  • To promote the dissemination of methods developed in-house through existing technology transfer opportunities and to increase collaboration with national and international partners in government, universities and the diagnostic industry;
  • To collaborate in the evaluation of commercially-available test kits and in the development of a compendium of methodologies for allergen detection/determination in foods;
  • To develop and evaluate alternatives to ELISA-based methodologies for confirmation of results, using either protein separation techniques coupled with Mass Spectrometry for the identification of key proteins/peptides, or using DNA-based techniques;
  • To collaborate with other international agencies in attempts to ensure a common approach in the reporting of results for allergens in foods; and
  • To develop characterized fractions of protein markers for the priority allergens and to establish a repository of immuno-reagents specific to these fractions

Achievements and on-going activities:

The Food Allergen Research Program has resulted in several ELISA-based methodologies useful for the detection and quantification of various allergens in processed foods:

  • 1996-97: ELISA for peanut proteins Footnote 1 Footnote 2
  • 1996-97: ELISA for soy proteins Footnote 3
  • 1997-98: ELISA for egg protein Footnote 4
  • 2001: ELISA for hazelnut protein Footnote 5
  • 2002: ELISA for crustacean tropomyosin Footnote 6
  • 2002: Multi-residue technique Footnote 7: Screening assay to detect simultaneously 4 tree nuts (Hazelnut, Brazil nut, Cashew nut, Almond) and one legume (Peanut)

These methodologies are considered as back-up techniques that federal inspection services may use for confirmatory purposes or to test for the presence of undeclared allergens in foods where validated commercial test kits are not available.

On-going research activities aim at the development of:

  • Other ELISA-based methodologies specific to almond and other tree-nut proteins;
  • Confirmatory techniques: based on the isolation and identification of protein/peptide markers of allergens using mass-spectrometry based techniques. Other techniques are being developed using DNA-based methodologies e.g. differentiation of sources of gluten; detection of soy markers etc;
  • A repository of reagents : the allergen method development program has resulted in a comprehensive repository of antibodies specific to priority allergens as well as reference protein solutions, developed in-house as well as through collaborative efforts; and
  • Compendium of allergen methodologies: A compendium of allergen methodologies is being developed through inter-laboratory evaluation of existing methodologies and under the auspices of the Health Canada/CFIA Allergen Methods Committee (AMC).

For more information on the Food Allergen Method Development Program, please contact the Food Allergen Program.

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