From May 2014 Newsletter:
Food Testing Explained; 0ppm does not exist!
I was surprised to find that many people really don’t understand Food Allergen Testing. There was a discussion going around on a celiac group recently about people wanting 0 ppm. Many don’t truly understand the testing that is available or the testing that we do here. So, I will explain it to you in a way that is easy to understand:
The FDA has set a threshold for Gluten in Food at 20 ppm or less. (ppm means parts per million). We are certified to 5ppm for Gluten by the Celiac Support Association (CSA). There is no lab test that detects 0ppm.
There is no threshold set for other food allergens, this is probably due to the different thresholds of sensitivity from person to person. Also, there is no lab test that detects 0 ppm!
So, when I send out food samples for testing, I am only as good as how low the lab can detect for each allergen.
A result can come back at less than 2.5 ppm (< 2.5ppm). What that means is that the lab cannot detect any lower than 2.5 ppm. So, it could actually be 2.4ppm or 1ppm, we just don’t know! The level of detection capability is different for each allergen.
If a lab test comes back with an exact number, then that is what it is, I like exact numbers, we know what it is; but there is a margin of error and you can get false positives because the lab has to inject the sample with the allergen in order to even perform the testing. When a false negative occurs, the lab will re-test the samples.Since the FDA does not regulate thresholds for other food allergens, each company has to pick their own standard for their allergen testing. Periodically I will choose items that contain the most ingredients that we use at ODC and send them out to be tested. I aim for below the lowest level of detection available on each allergen and am pleased with our latest results.
So what does this mean to you, the Celiac or the person with Food Allergies?
The question you need to ask yourself is this:
“When I buy a product that is allergen free, what exactly does that mean?” (you have to ask them)
“How do I know if a company tests their products & what their standards are?” (you have to ask them)
“Where am I safer when I go out to eat; at ODC or at a restaurant that says they have Allergen Free or GF but don’t test?” (I would say hands down, at ODC)
Testing costs a lot of money, this last round cost over $3,400.00 for 5 products.
It is not possible to test every single meal, every day in a restaurant. Below is an example of a recent test result:
Results for Mock “Rye” Bread
-Gluten: 5 ppm FDA Standard 20 ppm
Item Tested Result PPM Level of Detection PPM
-Milk,Casein,Whey: <2.5 ppm 2.5
-Soy: <2.5 ppm 2.5
-Egg: <2.5 ppm 2.5
-Fish: <1.4 ppm 1.4
-Sesame: <0.2 ppm 0.2
-Peanuts: <2.5 ppm 2.5
-Almond: <2.5 ppm 2.5
-Cashew: <2.5 ppm 2.5
-Hazelnut: <2.5 ppm 2.5
-Pistachio: <2.5 ppm 2.5
-Walnut: < 0.35 ppm 0.35