The largest responsibility the perishable food industry has is to safeguard the health of those who purchase their products. This includes a particular responsibility to those with food allergies. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) includes prevention of allergen cross-contact among specific hazards to consider in assessing a food safety plan for hazard analysis and preventative control. On a more practical note, the number one reason for food recalls on a global scale is undeclared allergens or incorrect labeling of allergens.
Is your facility doing everything it can to prevent cross-contact of allergens? What exactly might an instance of allergen cross-contact look like?
Proper Identification and Labeling
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act mandates disclosure of eight major allergen categories. However, the FDA recognizes that there are more than 160 foods that cause food allergies in some people. In addition, it has been argued recently that certain foods — like coconuts, as an example — may not trigger allergic reactions like other foods in their category — tree nuts, in this case. Not only does this cause confusion for the consumer, but it can also impact facilities that are classifying themselves as handling tree nuts.
Receiving and Storage
Once properly identified, foods that are truly classified as allergens need special care in any facility. This includes both proper distancing of separate allergen storage spaces and appropriate visual controls on your storage materials. But even before those materials make it into your facility, procedures must be in place for proper receiving and transferring, so as to prevent cross-contact.
Handling and Processing
Special care must be taken when working with raw materials that contain allergens. Just as the storage of these materials should be distanced by space, working with those materials should be distanced by time as well.
Direct traffic flow to keep allergens separate from non-allergens. Manage air flow to prevent allergens from entering allergy-free zones through the air. And avoid crossing production lines with both allergen and non-allergen material.
Production timelines might begin with allergy-free products, then add allergen-containing materials afterward. This will minimize the amount of time that the equipment is in contact with the allergen.
How is your facility handling allergens? Harvest Food Solutions is here to help, with software packages to help analyze workflow, improve inventory tracking and raw material labeling, and warehouse configuration. Give us a call and let’s talk!