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Australian Government: National Measurement InstituteAustralian Government: National Measurement Institute
National Measurement Institute

Allergen and Intolerance Proteins

Intolerance and allergenicity to components within food is occurring in an increasing number of people (reported to be 6 to 8% of children and 2% of adults).

Allergies reflect an over-reaction of the immune system to substances that usually cause no reaction in most individuals. Once ingested, food allergens can cause a number of reactions, ranging in severity from hives and itching to anaphylaxis.

Food intolerance is an adverse food-induced reaction that does not involve the immune system (common examples are lactose and gluten intolerance).

Food manufacturers are clearly labelling their products with a list of ingredients to protect those with food allergies and intolerances. Analysis for the presence of these components ensures food manufacturers that potentially dangerous ingredients are not unintentionally added to a product during manufacture.

NMI can provide analysis for the following allergy and intolerance protein residues: gluten, peanut, hazelnut, almond, egg, milk, soy, seafood (crustacean) and sesame.

For further information please contact 722 845 or use our on-line form.


The term gluten is generally used to describe proteins in wheat and other grains that gives cereal doughs their elastic texture.

Gluten is more correctly a general term for prolamins, a protein fraction found in a variety of grains. Prolamins damaging to individuals with gluten intolerance (also known as coeliac/celiac disease) are gliadin (wheat), secalin (rye) and hordein (barley). Interestingly both corn and rice also have prolamins (zein and orzenin respectively), but these prolamins are not toxic to individuals with coeliac disease. About 1:200 people are affected by this disease. There is no known cure for coeliac disease except a gluten-free diet.

The Food Standards Australia New Zealand Code permits claims about the gluten content of foods if they can be substantiated by testing using a sensitive procedure. The ELISA system used by NMI is generally accepted to meet this requirement and provides a semi-quantitative indication of the gluten content. In addition to labelling requirements, there are a number of other applications for gluten testing.

Testing for Gluten

Monoclonal antibodies specific to the toxic portion of gliadin were developed by researchers at CSIRO in the 1980s and have been incorporated into a sensitive ELISA test. This is also the basis for AOAC Method 991.19 (1995) which has undergone extensive inter-laboratory validation and is used internationally.

NMI has many years of experience in testing a variety of different food types using the AOAC-approved ELISA system and has successfully participated in international proficiency testing programs.

Specific Gluten Testing Applications

Food processors, regulators and the general public may want to test for the presence/absence of gluten in food and food ingredients so as:

  • to monitor the gluten content when it is an important contributor to product quality, texture or shelf life
  • to monitor the starch quality of starting materials when gluten content determines their suitability for use in special dietary foods, baby foods or as a pharmaceutical filler
  • to assess the efficiency of gluten washing in starch manufacture by monitoring starch and effluent
  • to monitor the gluten content of foods, beverages and pharmaceutical for gluten-intolerant individuals
  • to ensure foods are correctly labelled in accordance with the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Code or other relevant legislation and guidelines