Every food manufacturer should use an allergen control program to help prevent large-scale product recalls.
Avoiding allergy cross-contamination is important to food manufacturers because allergens represent a serious risk. For consumers with food allergies, eating even a small amount of allergen can cause severe reactions, including death.
And for food processors, allergy cross-contamination can cause large-scale food recalls, huge financial losses and irreversible damage to your brand.
Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act
To protect allergic consumers, Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. FALCPA requires food packaging labels to declare the presence of any of the “Big 8” major food allergens identified by the law.
The “Big 8” allergens are:
- Crustacean shellfish
- Tree nuts
Documented allergen control program
Because FALCPA’s labeling requirements don’t apply to the presence of major food allergens in foods resulting from cross-contamination, we recommend food manufacturers implement and maintain a documented allergen control program.
Here are a few tips for food manufacturers to follow to help reduce food contaminations and food recalls:
- Identify and isolate allergens. Clearly label allergenic products and store them in specific areas away from safe ingredients. If storage space is limited, similar allergens can be stacked on top of one another on shelves or racks.
- Consider using different product lines/equipment for non-allergen and allergen products. The goal is to minimize and limit the number of allergen contact areas. Color code areas, equipment, containers and utensils to match each allergen.
- Implement clear and concise changeover procedures. Cross-contamination can occur if changeover procedures aren’t followed correctly. All changeovers should include a cleaning and verification program, and be well- documented.
- List applicable allergens on product labels. The disclaimer "This product may contain allergens" does not eliminate liability if cross-contamination occurs.