Food allergy presents a problem for many parts of society, including sensitive subjects, schools, health authorities, and the food industry. Once food allergy is diagnosed, dietary avoidance is the principle method of management. Because trace levels of peanuts can elicit an adverse to fatal reaction, unintentional exposure to the offending allergens may have devastating consequences to sensitive individuals. However, determination of trace amounts of unintentional peanut contamination in our food supply is very difficult. Recently, we developed polyclonal antibodies specific to peanut proteins that do not cross-react with 22 legumes, tree nuts, or other common snack ingredients. An antiserum containing the polyclonal antibodies was used to develop a sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for determination of peanut proteins in snack foods. This study reports the first successful ELISA test to detect trace amounts of peanut allergens in a variety of foods. The concentration of peanut protein that inhibited 50% of antibody-antigen binding (IC50) was 12 ng/mL, the linear range was 1-63 ng/mL, and the detection limit was 400 ng/g (ppb) for the various foods tested. Recoveries ranged from 68 to 90%, with coefficients of variation of 2-22%, depending on the commodity. Using this new procedure, allergy-related complaint samples from various food groups were analyzed, and undeclared peanut proteins were identified in some products.

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