Journal of AOAC International (2013), 96, 6, 1350--61 DOI: 10.5740/jaoacint.12-438
Current routine food allergen quantification methods, which are based on immunochemistry, offer high sensitivity but can suffer from issues of specificity and significant variability of results. MS approaches have been developed, but currently lack metrological traceability. A feasibility study on the application of metrologically traceable MS-based reference procedures was undertaken. A proof of concept involving proteolytic digestion and isotope dilution MS for quantification of protein allergens in a food matrix was undertaken using lysozyme in wine as a model system. A concentration of lysozyme in wine of 0.95 +/- 0.03 microg/g was calculated based on the concentrations of two peptides, confirming that this type of analysis is viable at allergenically meaningful concentrations. The challenges associated with this promising method were explored; these included peptide stability, chemical modification, enzymatic digestion, and sample cleanup. The method is suitable for the production of allergen in food certified reference materials, which together with the achieved understanding of the effects of sample preparation and of the matrix on the final results, will assist in addressing the bias of the techniques routinely used and improve measurement confidence. Confirmation of the feasibility of MS methods for absolute quantification of an allergenic protein in a food matrix with results traceable to the International System of Units is a step towards meaningful comparison of results for allergen proteins among laboratories. This approach will also underpin risk assessment and risk management of allergens in the food industry, and regulatory compliance of the use of thresholds or action levels when adopted.