Allergen control has become an increasing source of concern for the food industry. Product recalls have risen due to undeclared allergens on labels in recent years, but there’s actually a benefit to this issue: companies are now more aware of the steps they must take to achieve allergen audit compliance, and to support public health and safety. Here, we review some key steps you can take to control allergens in your facility.
Focus on the “Big 8”
It’s estimated that 15 million people throughout the U.S. have food allergies, with 5.9 million of those individuals being under the age of 18. While there are more than 170 foods that have been linked to allergic reactions, the FDA has categorized most sources of food allergens into eight primary categories:
- Tree nuts
The organization for Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) also warns that sesame is becoming an emerging concern.
Develop an Allergen Control Plan
Food Safety Magazine warns of the critical errors or oversights which can contribute to finished products becoming contaminated with allergens:
- Inadequate sanitization of shared equipment
- Switching ingredients
- Use of rework; i.e., not using “like into like” practices
- Incorrect or uncommon terminology for labeling terms
- Lack of proper frequency for HACCP plan review
In order to mitigate the risks of these errors during processing, companies must establish an Allergen Control Plan (ACP).
This plan should encompass both supplier management tactics, as well as ways in which allergens and non-allergen products are handled throughout your facility. Some factors to consider are plant traffic flow, raw material storage and handling, color-coded systems for utensils used with allergens, production scheduling, cleaning, and label review policies. Employee training and frequent review of HACCP plans should also factor into your allergen control plan. Likewise, it is also a good practice to routinely monitor performance to ensure your allergen control plan is working effectively.
About SafetyChain Software
SafetyChain is a Quality Management System (QMS) that helps food and beverage companies improve productivity, profitability, and compliance with a flexible, user-friendly software platform that captures, manages, and analyzes real-time operations data.