testing food for peanut - cupcakes

To understand how frequently peanut exposure could be occurring for people who maintain peanut-free diets, we’ve been testing food for peanut. Unlike gluten, there is no standard regulated by the FDA for what constitutes “peanut-free.” Our team aims to develop a product that can detect below 20 parts per million (ppm). Doing this sort of validation work about the levels of peanut present in food not spiked in the lab is incredibly helpful to foster our understanding what may be seen in the world where people are actually using Nima.

We’re sharing three rounds of foods we tested for peanuts, and sharing some of our experiences along the way. In our last post, we examined baked goods for the presence of peanut.

This time we sampled packaged foods that had been produced on shared equipment. We looked for a wide variety of foods: snacks, sauces, and sweets. Samples were collected in a single day here in San Francisco, predominantly at Safeway and other regional grocery stories. We examined labels to ensure they either read “produced in a shared facility,” “processed on shared equipment” or similar to see how these items fared.

Please note that this represents a test at a single point in time. We took all precautions to avoid further contamination, with items kept in their original packaging until testing began. Subsequent tests may yield different results as every time you test an item, circumstances may change. If you are ever in doubt, you should contact a manufacturer. Here are some general label guidelines, as shared in an earlier post about deciphering food labels. For the top eight allergens, if that allergen constitutes an ingredient in a given food item, that allergen must be shown in the “contains” section of that packaged food label. It should be noted that highly refined oils (including peanut oil) are exempt from this. Manufacturers, may, but are not required to, have advisory statements on their products such as the ones we used to select products for testing. This is why it’s important to ask questions of food manufacturers when you are uncertain. You can call, email, and often reach out on social media for more information. Our deciphering food labels blog post contains good questions to ask manufacturers if you have any concerns and you can also use some of the questions we’ve developed for gluten, too. As we launch peanut, we will have similar guidelines to optimize the testing experience.

Samples of each item we purchased were sent out to a third-party lab to determine the level of peanut present. Every item tested below 2.5 parts per million of peanut. What does this mean? Each antibody-based method of peanut detection has both a limit of detection and a limit of quantification.  From a presentation given at the BioPharmaceutical Emerging Best Practices association:

LOD (limit of detection) is the lowest amount of analyte in a sample that can be detected with (stated) probability, although not quantified as an exact value.

LOQ (limit of quantification) is the lowest amount of analyte in a sample that can be quantitatively determined with a stated acceptable precision and accuracy, under stated experimental conditions.

In this case, these items can be said to be essentially peanut-free, but if there is peanut present, it would be below that level, at which point it can’t be quantified.

Packaged Foods Tested for Peanut

  • Rold Gold Pretzels Tiny Twists, Original
  • Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop White Cheddar Popcorn
  • Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Straws, Zesty Ranch
  • Hostess Sno balls
  • Svenhard’s Swedish Bakery Bear Claws
  • Nabisco Chips Ahoy
  • Entenmann’s Pop’ettes Powdered Donuts
  • Keebler Fudge Stripes, Original
  • Panda Express Mandarin Teriyaki Sauce
  • Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce and Dip

Learn more about the Nima Peanut Sensor (coming 2018).

Testing food for peanut