Submitted to: International Association for Food Protection
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/26/2021
Publication Date: 7/19/2021
Citation: Shelver, W.L., Mcgarvey, A.M., Yeater, K.M. 2021. Evaluation of allergens in a survey of frozen meals and meals ready-to-eat (MREs). International Association for Food Protection. p 88.
Technical Abstract: Introduction: Multiplex immunoassay, an efficient way to determine multiple allergens simultaneously, was evaluated and the results compared with singlet ELISA for complex matrices such as frozen meals and meals, ready to eat (MREs). Purpose: To determine the number of undeclared allergens as well as allergens declared but not verified by immunoassay in frozen meals and MREs from a market survey. Methods: A total of 113 frozen meal types and 24 MREs were purchased in duplicate. A 7-plex array was used to detect soy, egg, cashew, hazelnut, milk, peanut, and shrimp allergens. ELISAs capable of determining individual allergens (singlet ELISA) were also used to determine allergens in food samples. The results were analyzed statistically using the Bland-Altman approach. Results: Both the 7-plex and the singlet ELISAs accurately detected cashew, peanut and shrimp allergens relative to product label declarations. However, for soy, egg, and milk, both assays failed to detect labeled antigens in MREs and frozen food. Undeclared allergens were detected for egg in 1.8% and for soy in 7.1% of frozen meals. Labeled allergens were not detected in 0.9% of milk, 4.4% of egg, and 15% of soy allergens in frozen meals. Both the 7-plex array and singlet ELISAs performed poorly on the analyses of MREs ranging from no correlation for egg (r = 0) to marginal correlation (r = 0.5976) for milk antigens. The singlet ELISA returned higher concentrations to all allergens in comparison to 7-plex ELISA. Significance: Both 7-plex and single allergen ELISAs detected undeclared allergens and failed to detect declared allergens. More accurate methods are needed to assay allergens in processed foods such as frozen meals and MREs.