The levels (1-2%) and increasing severity of allergic responses to food in the adult population are well documented, as is the phenomenon of even higher (3-8%) and apparently increasing incidence in children, albeit that susceptibility decreases with age. Problematic foods include peanut, milk, eggs, tree nuts, and sesame, but the list is growing as awareness continues to rise. The amounts of such foods that can cause allergic reactions is difficult to gauge; however, the general consensus is that ingestion of low parts per million is sufficient to cause severe reactions in badly affected individuals. Symptoms can rapidly-within minutes-progress from minor discomfort to severe, even life-threatening anaphylactic shock in those worst affected. Given the combination of high incidence of atopy, potential severity of response, and apparently widespread instances of "hidden" allergens in the food supply, it is not surprising that this issue is increasingly subject to legislative and regulatory scrutiny. In order to assist in the control of allergen levels in foods to acceptable levels, analysts require a combination of test methods, each designed to produce accurate, timely, and cost-effective analytical information. Such information contributes significantly to Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point programs to determine food manufacturers' risk and improves the accuracy of monitoring and surveillance by food industry, commercial, and enforcement laboratories. Analysis thereby facilitates improvements in compliance with labeling laws with concomitant reductions in risks to atopic consumers. This article describes a combination of analytical approaches to fulfill the various needs of these 3 analytical communities.

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