Allergy Management Tips For Food Manufacturing

Allergy Management Tips For Food Manufacturing

One of the biggest risks in modern food manufacturing is the rise of serious food allergies. While not entirely new, they have increased in recent years, and the public has become far more aware of the dangers.

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The problem goes beyond consumers inadvertently purchasing items containing allergens. Rather, food manufacturing itself has come under scrutiny as cross-contamination of food items on the front end can have devastating consequences. Ignorance is no excuse, and neither is accidental contamination. As such, food manufacturers must have solid plans in place to prevent the likelihood of cross-contamination.

Below, learn more about the risk of food allergies and what food manufacturers can do to keep consumers safe.

What are the Major Food Allergies?

Before you can take steps to keep food products safe, you have to have a thorough understanding of the ingredients most likely to hurt your consumers. Nine out of 10 allergic reactions to food fall into the following categories: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat. Victims can suffer symptoms that range from breathing difficulties, swelling or, at worst, anaphylactic shock that can lead to death.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has strict labeling requirements for ingredients in those eight categories, a food manufacturer cannot rely on labels alone. With millions of U.S. consumers at risk every time they purchase and consume food, it’s crucial to take every step possible.Food-allergens-poster

The Risks of Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination does not necessarily mean that certain food items are dropped directly into the mix. It can happen at several stages of food manufacturing. In fact, food handling and storage is one of the likeliest culprits behind cross-contamination. Under ideal circumstances, foods with ingredients that fall into the eight allergens categories would be stored in an entirely different section, if not another facility; however, storage facilities don’t always have the luxury of massive amounts of sectioned space. Smaller facilities should provide designated allergen sections while closely monitoring all movement and providing plenty of signage.

Similarly, food-handling equipment can result in contamination. Take pallets and forklifts, for example; if used across all food products in a single facility, the risk of cross-contamination can be much higher than if a facility uses specific machinery for different food items. When multiple machines are not practical, food handlers should take care to properly clean equipment on a regular basis.

The Necessity of Sanitation

Food manufacturing equipment must be constantly sanitized. For some, sanitation means simply eliminating the risk of bacterial contamination. However, despite efforts to kill microbes, allergens can sometimes make it through.

All equipment should be visually inspected for any loose particles. Also, be sure to use the right cleaner, as some contaminants might not be as obvious as solid particles. Residues and pastes, for example, could be much harder to remove with standard cleaning supplies.

The Benefits of Smart Labeling

Labeling both in your facility and on the finished product can save lives. In food manufacturing and storage itself, labeling can ensure that products are properly separated and stored — and for consumers, labeling can be a vital red flag. Consumer product labeling should be as transparent as possible. It’s not enough to list the ingredients in the food. Rather, labeling should indicate whether food products are made in plants that also process with allergens — think: “may contain peanuts” or “made in a plant that also processes tree nuts.”

With the right precautions in place, you can prevent deadly allergy-related accidents.

Chris Bekermeier is the Vice President of Marketing at PacMoore. PacMoore is a food contract manufacturer that offers food processing and packaging services. Chris received his B.S. in business management from Eastern Illinois University and his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.

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