Is New Food Really Safe?

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

The world’s population is growing, and is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. Correspondingly, the demand for food, particularly for meat, is also likely to increase rapidly.1

It is predicted that both meat and seafood consumption in an increasingly urbanised Asia will increase by another 78 percent between 2017 and 2050. However, with a rising focus on environmental sustainability, there is an immense pressure on the food industry to find ways to meet this spike in consumer demand without further straining the environment and the world’s resources.

In the last couple of years, alternative protein has emerged as a viable solution as it gains traction as a less resource-intensive option for both producers and consumers. Plant-based options are widely recognised as a sustainable non-meat alternative. As more companies tap new technologies to grab a slice of this growing pie, a more recent innovation is cultured meat or cell-based meat2, grown in laboratories. We are also increasingly seeing farmed insects touted as a more nutritional and cheaper source of protein.

Plant-based meat alternatives (PMA) have increased in popularity after the Beyond Burger® and Impossible Burger® became available in restaurants and supermarket shelves.3 These companies made a bold statement: they can make plants taste and feel as good as meat.

Allergens could be a safety risk in meat alternatives. This is true for soy, which is found in many plant-based food products and is considered one of the eight most common foods associated with food allergy.4

We are always concerned about potential contaminants. At the same time, we need to understand that any food containing protein might induce an allergic reaction5. This means that any food, not just a plant-based meat alternative, has the potential to cause a food allergy. A food allergy is a violent reaction of the immune system towards a protein present in food. Food allergies are estimated to affect 3 percent of adults and 6-8 percent of infants.6 Although they are relatively rare, food allergies can be fatal.

There are several techniques food testing laboratories use to screen for food allergens. However, most workflows do not compare to the power and reliability of an LC-MS/MS assay. SCIEX offers a multi-allergen screening method using liquid chromatography (LC) coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to analyse multiple allergens simultaneously in a range of food products (both raw and baked goods).7 The 12 allergenic foods included in our method are eggs, milk, peanuts, soy, almonds, brazil nuts, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts.

SCIEX continuously works to develop methods and workflows to enable you to produce safer foods and accurate food labeling. As a testament to our commitment, we are proud that our highly sensitive food allergens method has received the First Action Official Method (FAOM) classification from AOAC INTERNATIONAL’s Official Methods Board (OMB). 8

Are you interested in reading more about our vMethod™ Application for multiple allergen screening in food matrices using LC-MS/MS? Download a free copy of the LC-MS/MS allergen testing info kit for more details of the method.


4Sadler, M. J. Meat alternatives – Market developments and health benefits. Trends Food Sci. Technol. 15, 250–260 (2004)
5Davis, P. J. & Williams, S. C. Protein modification by thermal processing. Allergy: European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology vol. 53 102–105 (1998).
6Ogawa, T., Samoto, M. & Takahashi, K. Soybean allergens and hypoallergenic soybean products. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology vol. 46 271–279 (2000).