The UK Food Standards Agency has announced that it has rescinded a recall of a batch of ground cumin sold by the Bart Ingredients Company that had tested positive for the presence of undeclared almond protein.
Results from Bart Ingredients own testing of the same batch contradicted the positive result and further analysis of samples by the Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC) has confirmed that almond protein was not in fact present. However, a little known spice called mahaleb – produced from a plant of the Prunus family related to almonds – was detected. Unlike almond, mahaleb is not one of the 14 food allergens that must be declared on food labels.
The problem appears to be one of methodology. The initial tests used an ELISA-based protein detection method to detect almond protein, but this method is now known not to be able to reliably distinguish between almond and mahaleb. The LGC tests used a liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry combined with DNA testing to show that mahaleb could produce false positives in ELISA tests. Work is now under way to review the testing methodologies currently used for food allergens.
A number of paprika products have also been recalled in the UK because of undeclared almond protein. These recalls remain in force, as there is no evidence of a similar problem of cross-reactivity with mahaleb in paprika, although the possibility is being investigated.
More information about the rescinded recall can be found here.