7 Steps for Effective Allergen Control
The importance of effectively controlling allergens in food production is extremely high. Around 2 million people in the UK are living with a food allergy, with an average of 10 fatal reactions to undeclared allergenic ingredients a year. Poor allergen control poses significant risks to your consumers and your business reputation.
There are 170 foods known to induce allergic reactions, EU regulations focus on 14 allergens. These are the most common foods to provoke allergic reactions:
The 14 main allergens to be aware of are:
- Cereals that contain gluten (including wheat, rye, barley and oats)
- Crustaceans (including prawns, crabs and lobsters)
- Lupin (lupins are common garden plants, and the seeds from some varieties are sometimes used to make flour)
- Molluscs (including mussels and oysters)
- Tree nuts – such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts
- Sesame seeds
- Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (preservatives that are used in some foods and drinks)
Processing errors that can result in allergen contamination:
- inadequate cleaning of shared equipment
- switching of ingredients
- incorrect labelling
- Supplier Approval – investigate allergen control from all suppliers and request information on any allergens involved in their food production process.
- Raw Material Storage – store all allergenic foods in a segregated area, away from non-allergenic materials
- Colour-Coding System for Utensils – implement dedicated scoops, utensils and bins for specific ingredients. Place colour coding charts across food handling area to ensure staff are aware of system. Take a look at our range of colour coded equipment.
- Production Scheduling – by delaying the production of products containing allergen to the end of production line reduces the risk of contamination.
- Cleaning – a wet cleaning procedure after handling food allergen products is essential in reducing the risk of cross contamination. It is the protein component within the food that causes the allergic reaction, the aim of the wet cleaning procedure is to ensure allergenic proteins are fully removed. Hygiena Protein Swabs can be used as a cleaning verification method to measure levels of protein after cleaning. Test kits for specific allergens are available to ensure identified allergens are not present after cleaning. Designated spill kits ensure that dealing with an allergen spill remains contained to a specified set of equipment.
- Label review policies – develop a system to ensure accurate product labelling.
- Staff training – sufficient allergen training is essential to ensure employees are aware of what foods and processes can cause risk. Records should be kept of all staff training.
For more information on how your business can improve allergen control, talk to an expert on 08450 267 745.