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Analytical Chemistry

NIST releases tree nut reference material

Samples of almonds and hazelnuts will help food producers better identify allergens

by Andrea Widener
June 9, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 21


Small glass containers filled with almond and hazlenut flours.
Credit: C. Burdette/NIST
The National Institute of Standards and Technology identified almond (left) and hazelnut flours for use as reference materials to test for tree nut allergies.

New tree nut reference materials provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) can help food producers better label products for potential allergens.

The standards for almonds and hazelnuts could help food manufacturers identify specific allergens in food products and compare the amounts, which is important because up to 1% of the US population has a tree nut allergy.

Cross contamination is one of the main concerns for those with such allergies, and there isn’t currently a test to show whether a product is, for example, free of hazelnut allergens, NIST chemist Melissa Phillips says in a press release. “The main purpose of these test kits is to ensure that a food product hasn’t unintentionally come into contact with allergens while it was being made.”

The reference materials consist of 5 g pouches of almond or hazelnut flours that have been tested to confirm that they are not contaminated with other allergens.

Scientists from NIST’s Food Protein Allergen Program hope that the reference will eventually allow for labels that are more specific than the generic “contains nut products” ones. Instead, the labels could show the specific allergen and the amount a product contains, which could help consumers and physicians know if that food is safe for an individual.


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