The increasing food allergy incidents are raising concerns and heightened scrutiny on food products with allergens. Statistics show that 4% of adults and 6% of kids have at least one allergy, while 20% of the general population is prone to food intolerances. The increased awareness of food allergens is raising the number of product recalls for food manufacturing businesses. In response, many food processing plants have come up with allergen management strategies to control food allergens and protect consumers. Here are some of the control areas to focus on in allergen management:
6 Strategies for Successful Allergen Management
1. Ingredient Storage
When sourcing ingredients for food production, manufacturers need to understand the allergens present in the raw materials. It is also vital to separate non-allergen ingredients from those containing allergens during storage and processing. Isolating allergens will reduce contamination during processing and ensure the finished products are allergen-free. Raw material suppliers can also increase allergens in your products if they mishandle the ingredients during packaging or transport. Therefore, sourcing from reliable suppliers is vital in allergen management.
2. Food Contact Surfaces
If you use a single production line to manufacture different food items, allergen contamination is likely to occur during product changes. However, it is difficult to detect the contamination since only a section of the finished product will contain the allergen. If you must use a single production line to process multiple products, ensure proper cleaning to remove the ingredients with allergens.
3. Production Scheduling and Monitoring For Successful Allergen Management
Instead of cleaning the production line after every run, you can use the schedule to isolate products with allergens. For instance, you can schedule their processing towards the end of the day. Alternatively, you can separate the production lines to ensure ingredients with allergens are in one line. Changing the schedules minimises cross-contamination, cleaning costs and production downtime. You can also employ quality control machine vision systems from Industrial Vision to ensure accurate monitoring of the processing plants. The systems are effective in maintaining high-quality and reducing allergens through surface inspection. Besides, they can monitor multiple product lines at the same time.
4. Sampling and Testing
Food industries can minimise allergen contamination by testing finished products. Multiple test kits are available for detecting allergens on processing equipment and product samples. However, the manufacturing company needs a quality assurance specialist.
5. Correct Labelling
Most product recalls are often due to inaccurate labelling or failure to disclose the allergens present in the products. If the packaging employees are not aware of the allergens present, they may package the products in similar packaging as non-allergen products. Double-check the product listing and ensure your company lists all the allergens present. You can integrate vision systems into your production process to assist in label verification. Apart from ascertaining the measurements, it can also inspect the outer case labels to ensure the print quality and information are accurate.
6. Cleaning Standards for Non-Food Contact Surfaces
While non-food contact surfaces may not come into direct contact with your products, you should clean them at all times. Cross-contamination can expose the products to allergens. For instance, if you have multiple product lines in one room, some employees could be cleaning one line while others are packing goods in the next line.
Strategies for Successful Allergen Management
Food allergens are increasing daily, and manufacturing industries should embrace the strategies above to reduce the negative impact on their production. In addition, educating the employees and adopting new technologies to reduce allergens can minimise product recalls.