Ractopamine has been authorized as a feed additive and permitted in animal husbandry. With the establishment of the regulation to limit the concentration of ractopamine, a rapid screening method for ractopamine is urgently needed. Additionally, how to combine the screening and confirmatory tests of ractopamine is also critical to maximizing the efficiency of testing. Here, we developed a lateral flow immunoassays-based method for the screening of ractopamine in foods and proposed a cost-benefit analysis approach to optimize cost allocation between screening and confirmatory tests. After verifying the analytical and clinical performance of the screening method, a mathematical model was established to calculate the screening and confirmatory test results with various parameter settings, such as cost allocation, false-negative tolerance, and total budget size. The developed immunoassay-based screening test could successfully distinguish gravy samples with ractopamine levels over and lower than maximum residue limits (MRL). The area under curve (AUC) value of receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve is 0.99. For the cost-benefit analysis, mathematical simulation indicated that when the samples are allocated to screening and confirmatory tests at the optimized cost allocation, the number of confirmed positive samples can increase by 26 times compared to the scenarios entirely relying on confirmatory testing. While conventional wisdom considers that screening should be carried out at low false-negative rates, such as 0.1%, our results indicated that the cutoff value of a screening test with a 20% false-negative rate at MRL could capture the maximum number of confirmed positive samples at a limited budget. Our work indicated that the participation of the screening method in ractopamine analysis and optimized cost allocation between screening and confirmatory tests could enhance the efficiency in detecting the positive samples, which provides a rational basis for decision-making in food safety enforcement for public health.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.